September 19, 2019
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Sindhu routs Okuhara to win badminton World Championships; Momota repeats

Basel, Switzerland, Aug 25 (efe-epa).- Indian badminton star P.V. Sindhu on Sunday became the first player from her country to win a BWF World Championships gold medal, capping off a dominant tournament by routing Japan's Nozomi Okuhara 21-7, 21-7 in the final.

The fifth-seeded Sindhu put on one of the most impressive displays in a major championship title match in recent memory at the St. Jakobshalle arena in Basel, using her big advantage in height (1.79 meters to 1.56 m), reach and power to completely outclass her diminutive, third-seeded opponent.

Okuhara took the first point of this much-anticipated contest - a rematch of the 2017 BWF World Championships that the Japanese player narrowly won - but then a series of unforced errors gave Sindhu a 4-1 lead and a jolt of confidence.

The Indian player, who had lost three major finals before this tournament - at the 2016 Olympic Games and the 2017 and 2018 World Championships - at times in the past had played too defensively and allowed smaller players to dictate the action.

But on Sunday she bullied Okuhara around the court, using deep offensive clears to force her out of position and then raining down smash winners.

Sindhu grabbed a stunning 11-2 lead at the mid-game interval and never looked back.

Okuhara's coaches scrambled to come up with a strategy to combat the Indian player's dominance, but Sindhu continued to jerk her opponent around the court and put away any shuttles that were left short.

The Japanese player, for her part, started making uncharacteristic mistakes in a desperate attempt to control the rallies and try to get anything past the rangy Sindhu.

In the second game, Okuhara needed to get off to a good start but instead found herself down 11-4 at the mid-game interval as the same patterns continued and the match rapidly slipped away.

Sindhu gave herself a whopping 13 championship points when an Okuhara backhand went long and then clinched her first major title when a well-placed smash forced an error from her opponent.

"Last (year) I lost in the final. (The year before) I also lost in the final, so it was a very important win for me," Sindhu said afterward in an on-court interview. "And I'm really very happy."

Nothing in the history of these two players' meetings indicated that the match would be so lopsided.

While Sindhu defeated Okuhara in straight games at last year's World Championships and at the 2016 Olympics, she had just an 8-7 lead in their head-to-head coming into the match and lost to the Japanese star 21-19, 20-22, 22-20 in a colossal battle at the 2017 World Championships final, a contest that featured several grueling rallies of well over 50 shots.

Okuhara also is the only player to have defeated Spanish great Carolina Marin at a major tournament over the past five years, having beaten her en route to winning her world title in 2017.

Marin, winner of three world titles and an Olympic gold at the Rio Olympics, was forced to miss the 2019 World Championships after suffering a serious knee injury early this year.

Sindhu lost to Marin in the final of the 2016 Olympics and last year's World Championships, but she took her game to a higher level in Basel, using her power smashing to dominate most of her rivals and score an impressive 21-7, 21-14 win over Chinese No. 4 seed Chen Yufei in the semifinals.

She was severely tested, however, in the quarterfinals, having to rally to defeat second-seeded Tai Tzu-ying of Chinese Taipei 12-21, 23-21, 21-19 in the match of the tournament in women's singles.

In the men's singles, defending world champion Kento Momota of Japan, the world No. 1, was simply untouchable throughout the tournament and nothing changed in his 21-9, 21-3 rout of fifth-seeded Dane Anders Antonsen in Sunday's championship match.

Antonsen jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the first game while Momota was battling some early nerves, but the match then turned dramatically in the Japanese player's favor.

Using deep defensive clears to Antonsen's forehand side to neutralize the powerful Dane's attack, Momota won 40 of the next 46 points to capture his second major title.

Antonsen's poor play also contributed to the shocking scoreline, as the Dane committed numerous bad unforced errors and looked nothing like the player who had defeated defending Olympic champion and two-time world champion Chen Long of China 22-20, 21-10 in the quarterfinals.

Momota did not lose a single game in his six matches as he outclassed a field that was missing one key player - Chinese world No. 3 Shi Yuqi, who convincingly defeated the Japanese great at the Sudirman Cup international mixed team event in May.

Prior to the two routs in the singles finals, Japanese top seeds Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara repeated as women's doubles world champions by edging second-seeded countrywomen Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota 21-11, 20-22, 23-21.

For Fukushima and Hirota, it was the second straight year they lost a World Championship final to Matsumoto and Nagahara after holding championship points.

Last year, they led 20-18 in the third game before losing 19-21, 21-19, 22-20, while on Sunday they saved five championship points in the final game before taking a 21-20 lead.

But Masumoto and Nagahara won the next two points and then prevailed when Nagahara hit a perfect overhead drop shot to clinch the victory.

In the mixed doubles final on Sunday, the dominant Chinese pair of Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong won their second straight world title by routing Thailand's Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai 21-8, 21-12.

In the final match of the day, the fourth-seeded veteran Indonesian men's doubles duo of Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan defeated the Japanese pair of Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi, surprise finalists, 25-23, 9-21, 21-15.

For the 31-year-old Ahsan, it was his third title at the World Championships, while for the 35-year-old Setiawan it was his fourth. EFE-EPA

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