Updated March 9th, 2024 at 00:04 IST

Fighting PV Sindhu loses epic battle against Olympic champion Chen in French Open

India's P V Sindhu produced a gallant fight before marginally falling short against reigning Olympic champion Chen Yu Fei of China in an epic quarterfinal at the French Open Super 750 badminton tournament here on Friday.

PV Sindhu | Image:PTI
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India's P V Sindhu produced a gallant fight before marginally falling short against reigning Olympic champion Chen Yu Fei of China in an epic quarterfinal at the French Open Super 750 badminton tournament here on Friday.

On a comeback trail from a four-month-long injury layoff, Sindhu gave ample display of her strokeplay and physical fitness during a marathon one hour and 32-minute battle before settling for a 24-22 17-21 18-21 loss to the second seed and defending champion Chen in a riveting last eight battle here.

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The last time Sindhu had beaten the world no. 2 Chen was en route to her 2019 World Championships gold. Since then the Indian has lost to the Chinese twice in the last two meetings although she held a better 6-5 head-to-head record against her opponent coming into the crucial tie.

Playing a top-class opponent after quite sometime, Sindhu didn't show any sign off the left knee injury that had pushed her out of the circuit since October last year.

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There was nothing to separate the two as Sindhu produced an attacking display and also moved well on the court but a steady Chen Yu Fei managed to keep her nose ahead in the end.

Sindhu and Chen played some excruciating rallies with the Chinese using high tosses and lifts to keep the Indian at the back. But Sindhu tried to step up the pace. The result was both moved together till 6-6.

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But Sindhu then dumped one at the net and sent another one wide while Chen unleashed a cross-court return to move ahead. The Chinese had five points at the break when Sindhu made a misjudgement at the backline.

An unperturbed Sindhu, however, slowly made her way back to first claw back at 15-15 to take a lead with a five-point run.

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While the Chinese kept targeting Sindhu's body, the Indian managed to gather points with some delectable drops, cross court winners and some precise returns at her opponent's forehand corner.

From 19-19, the two moved neck-and-neck till 22-22 before Sindhu converted a third game point opportunity by unleashing a superb forehand cross court drop.

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Sindhu made a confident 4-2 lead after the change of sides with Chen sending the shuttle long twice.

However, the Chinese turned the tables as Sindhu went wide twice and Chen produced a backhand drop and a cross court smash to lead 7-4.

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The Indian drew parity again at 7-7 but Chen pulled away to 11-9 with a disguised return after Sindhu sprayed into nets twice. Sindhu kept the pressure on her opponent and restored parity at 13-13 with another delightful drop.

However, a rare service errors by Sindhu gave Chen an opportunity and she unleashed a straight smash and a body blow to move ahead. With Sindhu making too many unforced errors, Chen pulled away and roared back in the contest after the Indian sprayed another one to the net.

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While the clock crossed the hour's mark, the duo kept fighting.

In the decider, Chen produced two sublime shots -- a drop and a late cross net -- to open up 6-3 lead but a barrage of smashes helped Sindhu claw back at 7-7.

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The duo continued to test each other's mental resolve during the tight rallies and was inseparable till 11-11. Chen then grabbed five straight points but Sindhu managed to break the run of points with another lovely drop at 13-16.

But Chen was soon up 19-15 with a smash. Sindhu again brought the equation down to two points at 17-19 but missed a backhand net drop to hand over three match points to Chen, who sealed it when another body return was sent wide by Sindhu.

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Star Indian doubles players Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty cruised into the quarterfinals with a straight-game victory against the Malaysian pair of Man Wei Chong and Kai Woo Tee on Thursday night.

Satwik and Chirag, who have been on a dream run with successive runner-up finishes in 2023 China Open, Malaysia Open Super 1000 and India Open Super 750 this season to emerge as the world No. 1 doubles pair, defeated the Malaysian duo 21-13, 21-12 in a round-of-16 clash.

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Published March 9th, 2024 at 00:04 IST