World champion P V Sindhu was on Friday ousted from the All England Championship after being outplayed by a determined Nozomi Okuhara of Japan, who rallied her way to a thrilling three-game win in the quarterfinal of the women’s singles in Birmingham.
The 24-year-old Indian squandered a sparkling start as Okuhara produced a rearguard action to outwit Sindhu 12-21 21-15 21-13 in a 68-minute last eight encounter at the Arena Birmimgham.
Sindhu’s defeat ended India’s campaign at the Super 1000 tournament.
Sindhu had come into the match with a 9-7 head-to-head record against Okuhara, having demolished the Japanese in the finals of the 2019 World Championships.
The Indian started the match with the same intensity, quickly moving to a 3-0 lead and then swelling the advantage to 7-2 with a precise shot at the backline.
The Japanese narrowed the gap to 5-8 before Sindhu unleashed a shot at the back and then grabbed another point when Okuhara found the net.
Sindhu entered the break with a five-point cushion. The Indian continued to dominate the proceedings after the breather, putting her opponent under pressure to gather points at will.
Okuhara got a few points with her straight and cross court smashes but those were too few as Sindhu zoomed to 18-9.
With Okuhara’s weak returns going to the nets, Sindhu had a massive 20-11 advantage. The Indian quickly sealed the opening game when Okuhara erred again.
After the change of sides, Okuahara showed more intent, employing a low service and tried to put Sindhu on the back foot. It worked as she took a 5-2 lead. The Japanese engaged Sindhu in fierce rallies and forced her to make errors to lead 7-3.
A couple of unforced errors from Okuhara helped Sindhu to narrow the gap. A cross-court shot and return of serve helped Sindhu keep it to 8-10 before Okuhara entered the mid-game interval with a three-point lead.
Okuhara didn’t let the momentum slip after the break as Sindhu failed to keep pace in the rallies. The result was that the Japanese jumped to a 16-9 lead in a jiffy.
With Sindhu going long twice, Okuhara led 18-10 and soon roared back into the contest when Sindhu found the net after saving three game points.
In the decider, Okuhara continued to dictate the pace of the rallies, leading 5-2 early on. The Japanese didn’t allow Sindhu to attack, reducing the Indian to play the retrieving game.
A stunning return at the deep forehand of Sindhu gave Okuhara a 8-3 lead. The lightening quick Okuhara left Sindhu frustrated with her speed and placement as she grabbed a 11-5 advantage at the interval.
Errors continued to pile up for the Indian as Okuhara took a 16-7 lead. Sindhu missed the lines and found the net regularly to allow Okuhara move to 19-11. The Japanese eventually grabbed seven match points and sealed the match when Sindhu committed another error.