India's Pusarla V. Sindhu returns a shot to Taiwan's Tai Tzu Ying during their Women's badminton singles match at the BWF World Championships in Huelva, Spain, Friday, Dec. 17, 2021 | Photo: AP
Huelva (Spain): In a historic first, India were assured of at least two medals and one finalist in the men's singles competition of the ongoing BWF World Badminton Championships after the seasoned Kidambi Srikanth and young Lakshya Sen entered their maiden semifinals of the marquee event here on Friday.
However, it was disappointment for defending champion PV Sindhu, who lost to familiar foe Tai Tzu Ying in the women's singles quarterfinals.
India are assured of at least a silver as Srikanth and Sen will face each other in the first semifinal on Saturday.
It turned out to be a historic day for Indian badminton as first Srikanth, seeded 12th in the showpiece tournament, sent Mark Caljouw of the Netherlands packing with a 21-8 21-7 win in a match that lasted just 26 minutes.
And then the unseeded Sen fought his heart out to get the better of China's Jun Peng Zhao 21-15 15-21 22-20 in an enthralling three-game encounter lasting one hour and seven minutes.
"I was confident in rallying it out. Both of us made some mistakes. At 20-all I slipped but I managed to pull off a winner and I got a bit lucky," said Sen.
"I haven't played Srikanth in three years, it's been a while, so it will be a good match. He's playing really well, he's beaten opponents in single digits this week.
"I'm also playing well, and we both play an attacking style. Let's see who makes the final. India is assured of a finalist, so that's a good thing. I will go all out," he added.
The two will join the legendary Prakash Padukone (bronze in 1983) and B Sai Praneeth (bronze in 2019) as the Indian medal winners at the showpiece.
"I just told myself I had to be in the match, I didn't want to give a big lead or make easy mistakes, I had to be focussed," said Srikanth.
"I'm happy to reach this stage. Coming into this tournament, I was only thinking of the first round. From there it was only about the next match."
Sindhu, who lost her quarterfinal match against Tai Tzu, has won five medals in the showpiece while Saina Nehwal has two medals to her name.
The women's doubles pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa had also won a bronze in 2011.
The world number 14 Srikanth was ahead 11-5 at the first game's change of ends and from 14-8, he took seven straight points to pocket it in a jiffy.
The second game was no different as Srikanth completely outplayed his opponent. From 4-3, it was Srikanth all the way as he zoomed to another seven straight points. From 17-7, Sriknath pocketed another four points on the trot to win the match.
In the women's singles, Sindhu suffered a straight-game defeat to world number one Tai Tzu of Chinese Taipei to bow out of the championships.
The top-seeded Tai Tzu beat Sindhu 21-17 21-13 in an energy-sapping match that lasted 42 minutes.
Sindhu found it difficult to match Tai Tzu's speed, court coverage and drop shots as has been the case many times earlier though the Indian produced some fine cross-court smashes.
Sindhu, who also stumbled to many unforced errors during the match, was always playing a catch-up game. She managed to do that in the second game at one stage but lost steam later on.
The win extended the head-to-head record between the two top players to 15-5 in favour of the Chinese Taipei player.
The world number seven and double Olympic-medallist Sindhu had also lost to Tai Tzu in the Tokyo Games semifinals earlier this year.
Tai Tzu, on the other hand, avenged her defeat to Sindhu in the 2019 World Championships at the same stage.
The two players -- friends off the court -- were tied 2-2 early on but Tai Tzu shifted gears quickly to take a lead of 11-6 at the change of ends in the first game.
Sindhu made a recovery to narrow down the gap to 16-18 and then 17-19 with some fine cross-court smashes. But the Indian could not maintain the tempo till the end as she hit wide twice to lose the first game in 17 minutes.
The second game was more closely fought, but again Tai Tzu led 11-8 at the change of ends after Sindhu made an error in judgment.
In HS Prannoy, another Indian is still in the reckoning for a place in the men's singles semifinals as he will take on Kean Yew Loh of Singapore later in the day.