India’s highest-ranked shuttler PV Sindhu was pushed to her limits by arch-nemesis Tai Tzu Ying — widely regarded as the best shuttlers in the current generation — and eventually suffered a heartbreaking loss after a gruelling encounter at Stade Pierre de Coubertin in Paris. The World No. 1 beat the reigning World Champion 21-16, 24-26, 21-17 in a clash that lasted 75 minutes to progress to the semifinals of the ongoing French Open.
On Friday night, Sindhu and Tai Tzu played out what was probably their best contest ever. Every point in the match was fought with incredible tenacity, the margin for error was extremely little. Every point of the match could be described in long paragraphs. Such was the encounter.
In the first game, neither Sindhu nor Tai Tzu could enjoy a comfortable advantage over the other, at least until 19-16 (in favour of the World No. 1). While Tai Tzu took the first two points of the game, Sindhu rallied back and took to very good points to level it up. A 22-shot rally, within that period, was only an indicator of how the match would progress.
As the game went on, the story continued at a similar pace. However, after 16-16, the Chinese Taipei shuttler set into her groove and took five back to back points to seal the game.
The second game saw World No. 6 Sindhu take an early lead at 5-2 but Tai Tzu would not give up, now would she? The talented shuttler, who is known for her deceptive gameplay, gave everything in her armour, from long lifts to well-disguised cross-court drop shots. She began clawing back into the game but Sindhu was relentless.
The lanky Indian defended resiliently, reaching were she wasn’t supposed to be and blocked all of Tai Tzu’s efforts. A 42-shot rally, in the second game, which saw both Sindhu and Tai Tzu outwit each other, remained the highlight of the match. The second game went on for a good 33 minutes — matches are often decided in 33 minutes — and after five game points, Sindhu finally managed to level the tie and take it to the decider.
The 24-year-old had upped the ante by then but she could not possibly fathom that her opponent would come at her with double intensity in the third game. Tai Tzu was simply unstoppable, she controlled the game and quickly took a healthy 3-point lead. By the time the decider went into the breather, the reigning All England Open champion was leading 11-8. Sindhu did try to find a way back but by then Tai Tzu had gained control of the match. At the end of it all, the World Champion had to accept defeat.
This was Tai Tzu's 11th win over Sindhu in 16 encounters. In the process, the 25-year-old shuttler, who has the distinction of being ranked World No. 1 for the highest number of weeks, exacted sweet revenge over her adversary after having lost the previous two clashes.
With this result, India's challenge in singles of the French Open came to an end. Earlier in the day, Saina Nehwal had suffered a straight game loss to 17-year-old sensation An Se Young of Korea. Men's doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty are the only Indians left in the fray as they made it to the semifinal.