Crowd favourite PV Sindhu couldn’t make her UAE stay a triumphant one as the Indian crashed out of the semi-finals following a back-and-forth tug of war with Sung Ji Hyun in the Dubai World Superseries Finals.
The packed house at Hamdan Sports Complex deafeningly cheered on the Olympic silver medallist, but the backing wasn’t enough to overcome a dominant third-game display by the Korean, who booked her place in the women’s singles final with a 21-15, 18-21, 21-15 win on Saturday.
Sung jumped out to a quick 4-0 lead in the deciding game, seizing all the cushion she would need to stave off Sindhu’s scrappy fightback. The barrage also erased any momentum her opponent had built up after winning the final three points of the second game to even the match.
“I think from the beginning of the third set, I would have kept much more control,” Sindhu said of what she would have done differently. “I gave her [four] points in a row, so that I would have changed.
“She went on and kept going. I think that made a big difference.”
The first game was tight until the very end, when Sung pulled away by claiming six of the final seven points on offer.
With both players evenly-matched, the result came down to which players went on more scoring runs and on this day, that distinction belonged to Sung.
“She knows my game and I know her game,” Sindhu said. “It depends on that day.”
For Sung, it was a courageous effort in front of a very one-sided audience, but the world No4 felt the raucous environment might have actually played in her favour, if at all.
PV Sindhu loses to Hyun Sung of Kor 15-21 21-18 15-21 in the SF of BWF SS Finals— Sports India (@SportsIndia3) December 17, 2016
What an amazing year for sindhu.keep making us proud🇮🇳🇮🇳🇮🇳 pic.twitter.com/cOaX8uTejz
“There was great fan support for Sindhu but sometimes that may also put pressure on her because there is a lot of expectation,” Sung said.
“But actually for me I was trying to forget about the atmosphere and focus on the game. It didn’t really matter very much to me.”
Regardless, Sindhu certainly noticed the increase in turnout and was thankful of the overwhelming support.
“A big thanks to everybody because the whole week they’ve been very supportive. Definitely I would come back next year hopefully with good results,” she said.
Sung will now meet Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying in the final today after the world No1 punched her ticket to the title match earlier with a 21-19, 21-19 victory over China’s Sun Yu.
Tai, who won in Dubai in 2014, reversed history by ending a five-match drought against Sun with an impressive performance.
In the second game, Tai overcame an early 3-0 hole and later, when it appeared Sun would force a decider, earned seven of the final nine points to seal the win.
“I’ve always made too many mistakes in past matches against her, while she was always stable,” Tai said. “Today I tried to cut down on the errors. I’m very happy to have finally beaten her after five losses.”
The big Dane, who had lost nine of his previous 10 clashes to the Malaysian, saw off the veteran in a one hour, 12 minute epic, coming from behind to win 14-21, 21-14, 21-19.
It meant Axelsen was the second qualifier from Group B and he now faces either Tian Houwei or Jan Jorgensen on Saturday for a place in the season-ending final at the Hamdan Sports Complex.
Axelsen held his nerve in the deciding set, with Lei conceding the match with a fault on serve – a gift the 22-year-old described as an “early Christmas present”.
Incidentally, it was the second time in a row the 6’4 powerhouse had got the better of four-time end-of-season champion Wei in Dubai.
“I’m very, very happy. He’s a player I looked up to as a little child and the first time I played against him in 2012, I was like: ‘Woah, how do I get to that level’.
“I’ve lost nine times to him but you fall and stand up again and I’m going to stand up again every time I fall during my career. It’s a privilege to play these matches so I’m going to enjoy every moment of it and if you are too hard on yourself every time you lose then you will never accomplish anything. I just keep going and believe good things will await in the future.
“I didn’t really feel that I played as well as I can and I’m not at the best moment in my career but the victory was the main thing so I’m really happy about that,” Axelsen, who lost to Japan’s Kento Momota in last year’s Superseries final on UAE soil, added.
The world number four, who is also fluent in Mandarin and won bronze at Rio 2016, gifted the crowd his racquet after victory in what was his way of paying tribute to a packed Dubai house.
“It’s a real pleasure to play in front of a good crowd even though most of them were cheering for my opponent. I’m still enjoying it and that’s how every match and tournament should be because all the players enjoy playing in front of a good crowd.”
With top contender Pusarla V Sindhu also falling to Sun Yu, the group was thrown open. The final group matches on Friday will decide the semi-finalists.
Japan’s Yamaguchi sustained her fast paced style even in the later stages of the match to outlast Marin 18-21 21-17 21-14 in 86 minutes, the longest match of the tournament so far.
Earlier, Sun Yu got her second big win on successive days, beating crowd favourite Sindhu 21-15 21-17.
In contrast to Group B, the semi-finalists from Group A were decided on Thursday, with Tai Tzu Ying joining Sung Ji Hyun in the knockout stage. World No.1 Tai was untroubled by the less-than-fully-fit Ratchanok Intanon (Thailand) as she eased to a 21-12 21-14 result.
Malaysia’s Goh V Shem and Tan Wee Kiong won a thrilling 58-minute battle against Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen to cement their semi-final place from Group B of Men’s Doubles.
Li/Liu’s second loss meant that they have no hope of progressing to the knockout stage.
Goh and Tan kept their nerve in a tight finish, edging past the Chinese duo 18-21 21-19 21-19. The Malaysians’ next match with China’s Chai Biao/Hong Wei will decide the group winners.
And in Men’s Singles, Korea’s Son Wan Ho recovered from a big deficit to upstage last year’s runner-up Viktor Axelsen, 21-19 14-21 21-18 in 76 minutes.
Axelsen had a 10-4 lead in the decider, but seemed to lose patience during the rallies as he attempted quick winners. The Dane’s mid-game lapse saw him allow Son to go ahead 14-12, and despite stemming the flow, Axelsen couldn’t regain the momentum at the end.
Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei kept alive his hopes of making the knock-out stage with a 21-15 22-20 victory over Hong Kong’s Ng Ka Long. Still showing signs of rust after his injury layoff, Lee managed to finish the game in straight games despite trailing for most of the second.
“Perhaps today’s performance was better than yesterday’s,” said Lee. “I wasn’t 100 percent. Perhaps that’s because I haven’t been playing any tournament for the past two months and I haven’t had the feeling of playing competitive badminton. Today is only the second match and I hope for a better performance tomorrow.”
Earlier in the day Mads Conrad-Petersen and Mads Pieler Kolding played some of their best badminton to defeat three-time World Superseries winners Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo/Marcus Fernaldi Gideon (Indonesia) in their Men’s Doubles Group A encounter, while Japan’s Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda recovered from Wednesday’s loss to record a 33-minute victory over Indonesia’s Angga Pratama/Ricky Karanda Suwardi, 21-15 21-9.
China’s Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan overcame mid-match resistance from second seeds Christinna Pedersen/Kamilla Rytter Juhl to grab their second straight win in Women’s Doubles Group B and Korea’s Jung Kyung Eun/Shin Seung Chan won a tight battle over Malaysia’s Vivian Hoo/Woon Khe Wei, 21-19 21-17.
In Group A, Korea’s Chang Ye Na/Lee So Hee got their second straight win with a 21-14 21-10 result over Japan’s Kurumi Yonao/Naoko Fukuman.
Jan O Jorgensen and Tian Houwei guaranteed themselves of semi-final places in Men’s Singles with comfortable victories in Group A. Denmark’s Jorgensen needed just 37 minutes to beat familiar rival Marc Zwiebler (Germany), 21-18 21-10, while Tian overcame Hong Kong’s Hu Yun 21-19 13-21 21-7 in just over an hour.
Action in the BWF Dubai World Superseries Finals continues with the finals being played on Sunday 18 December. The order of play, results and all the details can be found at http://www.dubaisuperseriesfinals.ae.