PV Sindhu takes sweet revenge from Nozomi Okuhara, wins Korea Open Super Series
The 22-year-old Indian overcame eighth seeded Okuhara 22 -20 11-21 20-18 in yet another energy-sapping contest that lasted an hour and 23 minutes to win the USD 600,000 tournament.
Sindhu had lost to Okuhara in the World Championship final in Glasgow last month in an epic battle which was described by experts as the best in many years. Today, she turned the tables on the Japanese to become the first Indian to win this Korea Super Series.
Expectations of yet another edge-of-the-seat thriller were raised after Sindhu and Okuhara set up a summit clash for the second time in little over three weeks and after the end of the final today, Sindhu was left exhausted and elated at the same time.
It did not go the distance like the marathon World Championship final that had lasted an hour and 50 minutes but today's summit clash had all the ingredients of another thrilling contest as the duo battled in long and intense rallies at the SK Handball Stadium here.
Sindhu displayed dogged determination and great stubbornness to lay claim to her third super series title of her career.
World no. 4 Sindhu, who had clinched the 2016 China Super Series Premier and India Super Series and Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold this season, thus dashed Okuhara's bid to win her third straight title after winning the Australian Open and the World Championship.
The win also helped Sindhu to level her head-to-head record against Okuhara, making it 4-4 in eight meetings between them.
Sindhu led 2-0 early in the first game but Okuhara was quick to erase the deficit. The Indian once again moved to a 5-3 advantage with Okuhara committing unforced errors. The first glimpse of the epic World Championship final was visible when they had a long rally at 6-5 which Sindhu won with a straight smash.
However, the Indian lost the advantage when Okuhara reeled off four points, showing her prowess to fight back to grab a 9-7 lead. A smash at Okuhara's backhand helped Sindhu make it 9-9 but the Japanese ensured that she has the advantage at 11-9.
Sindhu played an attacking rally and sealed it with a smash at 9-12. In fact, she grabbed five of the next eight points after the break to turn the tables at 14-13.
Sindhu once again dished out another intense rally and produced a precise over head smash to lead 15-14. The duo kept fighting and in another thrilling rally, Sindhu had to resort to continuous smashes before Okuhara finally sent one to the net to make it 17-17.
A simple return going to net made Sindhu hung her face in frustration. Then, the Indian went wide and long to hand over two game point opportunities to Okuhara.
The Japanese, however, could not make use of the chances as her backhand flick near the net went wide and then she made an error in judgement at the baseline to allow Sindhu claw back at 20-20.
Sindhu walked away with the opening game that lasted 28 minutes when Okuhara sent a return serve to the net and then saw the shuttle sail over the baseline.
World no. 7 Okuhara made a roaring comeback in the second game after Sindhu got buried in a heap of unforced errors. Right from the first stroke when she smashed long, Sindhu continued to struggle with her length and precision even Okuhara grabbed the shuttle early to dominate the proceedings of the second game completely.
The Olympic bronze medallist Japanese led 11-6 at the break and continued to extend her lead with Sindhu struggling with her strokes. In fact, it looked like the Indian had given up the fight as Okuhara took the match to the decider when Sindhu's return got buried at the net once again.
In the decider, Sindhu, who looked a tad dispirited in the second game, got her bearings right as she once again led 11-5 at the break when Okuhara went wide. The rallies continued to get fiercer as the duo battled hard for each point. Okuhara displayed tremendous defensive skills and tight net play to reduce the deficit to 16-18.
Sindhu was then left lying on the floor after another physically and mentally draining rally which the Indian won after Okuhara found the net. A tired looking shot went to net but Sindhu produced a good net return to have three match points at 20-17.
Sindhu could not reach the forecourt after another rally as Okuhara saved a match point but the Japanese sent the shuttle wide next as the Indian sealed the match and lifted her arms in celebration.
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