September 18, 2019
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Tai, Sindhu set up quarterfinal showdown at badminton World Championships

Basel, Switzerland, Aug 22 (efe-epa).- Chinese Taipei's Tai Tzu-ying and India's P.V. Sindhu will square off in a much-anticipated women's singles quarterfinal contest at the 2019 BWF World Championships after recording straight-game victories here Thursday.

The second-seeded Tai was in trouble in both games but managed to edge 21-year-old South Korean player Kim Ga-eun 24-22, 24-22 at St. Jakobshalle in Basel, while the fifth-seeded Sindhu cruised to a surprisingly lopsided 21-14, 21-6 victory over ninth-seeded American Beiwen Zhang.

Although neither player has dropped a game through two matches, Tai came perilously close to a one-game deficit in her third-round match against Kim.

The world No. 2 seemed befuddled by her 29th-ranked opponent early on, unable to anticipate clears that forced her off balance in the back of the court and unsuccessfully diving for accurate, unreturnable smashes near the sidelines.

Tai fell behind 7-1 out of the gates and faced three game points at 20-17 after casually leaving a forehand in the net, although she managed to turn things around in the nick of time.

She saved the first game point with one of her patented deception shots - a forehand swipe to the back court that left Kim flat-footed.

The South Korean then squandered the second one when she fired a smash well wide of the sideline, while Tai made the score 20-20 with a down-the-line smash on the line.

The world No. 2 then saved a fourth game point at 21-20 with a disguised drop shot winner before creating two game points of her own; she finally wrapped up the first game - and let out of scream of celebration and relief - when Kim netted a smash.

Tai appeared to have the match in hand when she went up 19-16 in the second game, but a couple of judgment errors let Kim claw her way back and earn a game point at 20-19.

The Chinese Taipei star managed to save that one with a delicate drop shot and then yet another game point when a crosscourt smash forced an error.

Finally, Tai clinched the nerve-racking victory with some outstanding retrieving followed by a Kim forehand in the net.

While Tai had to dig deep to win both games on Thursday, Sindhu used her length, reach and steep smashing to dominate Zhang from start to finish.

After a comfortable first-game win, Sindhu built a massive 19-5 lead before clinching the victory three points later when the American sent a smash several feet wide of the sideline.

The Indian star moved a step closer to her first title at a World Championships or Olympics with the win, while Tai also is in reach of her first major tournament crown.

Those players are arguably the best current women's singles players never to have won badminton's two biggest titles, although there are differences in their track records.

While Sindhu lost in the final of the 2016 Olympics and was runner-up at the 2017 and 2018 World Championships, Tai has never reached the semifinals of those two events.

Conversely, the Chinese Taipei player clearly has been the more consistent player overall over the past three years and owns a 10-4 edge in her head-to-head battles against Sindhu.

Sindhu defeated Tai in the round of 16 of the 2016 Olympics in straight games, while the Chinese Taipei player turned the tables by defeating her Indian opponent in the Asian Games final last year.

In other action Thursday in Basel, Japanese men's singles world No. 1 Kento Momota survived a tough first-game battle against India's H.S. Prannoy before rolling to a 21-19, 21-12 victory.

Momota will next take on Malaysia's Lee Zii Jia in Friday's quarterfinals.

The BWF World Championships will conclude on Sunday with final matches across five divisions - men's singles, women's singles, men's doubles, women's doubles and mixed doubles.

Most of the sport's top players are still alive in their respective categories.

But the Japanese world No. 1 in women's singles, Akane Yamaguchi, lost in her opening match to Singapore's Yeo Jia Min and the Indonesian world No. 1 men's doubles team of Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo and Marcus Fernaldi Gidwon were stunned in their opening match by the South Korean duo of Choi Sol-gyu and Seo Seung-jae. EFE-EPA

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