Saturday, August 24, 2019
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTON PHOTO
Their final two years ago in Glasgow turned out to be the gold standard against which subsequent finals were measured. Back then, Okuhara had trumped Pusarla in a gripping match, 21-19 20-22 22-20, in one of the greatest and longest women’s singles match ever played. How likely is it that another World Championships final featuring the two will touch the same stratospheric levels?
Pusarla did her own chances no harm by wrapping up her semifinal against Chen Yu Fei in just 40 minutes; she would have been further pleased at the effort Okuhara had to put in against Ratchanok Intanon in the other semifinal. The Japanese was involved in a titanic struggle with Intanon, finally clinching her spot after 83 minutes, 17-21 21-18 21-15.
It was Okuhara’s blinding speed and quality of retrievals that did Intanon in. The Thai was on top as long as she could employ her nicks and cuts in her surgically precise fashion; but once Okuhara started extending the rallies, the effort wore her down. Her smashes were just that bit wide of the lines; her netplay just that bit erratic. Okuhara, on the other hand, was relentless; there was not an inch given in the depth of her clears or her dogged pursuit of the shuttle.
“Sindhu is very strong for big matches, she has been in the finals of the World Championships and Olympics. This time again she’s in the final, it’s amazing. But I will try hard and I’m looking forward to the final,” said Okuhara.
Zheng/Huang March On
There was no stopping Zheng Si Wei and Huang Ya Qiong, as the defending champions progressed to their fifth final this year elbowing out Japanese challengers Yuta Watanabe/Arisa Higashino 21-11 21-15.
There were better returns for Japan in the day’s earlier matches. Women’s doubles second seeds Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota gave themselves a shot at the title which they missed last year despite holding two match points. Fukushima/Hirota had little trouble in beating Du Yue/Li Yin Hui, who were kept on court for two hours last evening by Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi.
Momota in Cruise Mode
Top seed Kento Momota had all the boxes ticked against Sai Praneeth, who was attempting to become the first Indian in a men’s singles final. The defending champion totally controlled the rhythm of play; so masterly was he that a frustrated Praneeth blew even the few open opportunities that came his way. Momota jogged away to a 21-13 21-8 victory in 42 minutes.
“I was pushing the pace but not getting points, and I didn’t know what to do. I went a bit blank. He has an allround game, he plays according to the opponent, he can vary the game whenever he wants to. The main thing is you have to be mentally fit against him. He has a lot of patience and a lot of variations.” – Sai Praneeth, after losing to Kento Momota.