Tokyo Olympics 2020: With victory over PV Sindhu, Tai Tzu-Ying ends the big-stage jinx

·4 min read

For once, Tai Tzu-Ying proved incapable of deception.

After her 40-minute victory over PV Sindhu in the women's singles semi-final at the Tokyo Olympics, the Taiwanese player could not hide her emotions, breaking into uncontrollable laughter several times in her media interaction.

Her victory over Sindhu had helped her get the monkey off her back, after all: no longer will history remember her as a player who could not medal at the big stage of the Olympic Games or the World Championships. Her record in the two big competitions before Tokyo was unfair to a player of her calibre. Never made it past the last-16 at the Olympics in two attempts, London 2012 and Rio 2016. Never made it past the quarter-final in six attempts at the Worlds.

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She shrugged off that baggage and Sindhu's challenge in two mesmerising games on Saturday in a clash worthy of a finale.

The match started with Sindhu asserting control of the first game, taking a 5-2 lead, then extending it to 7-3. The highlight of this passage of play was a drop shot the Indian played with a delicate flick of her wrist which had Tai sprawled on the floor as she made a flailing attempt to reach the shuttle.

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Tai, though, was not going to be left chasing Sindhu's shadow for long. She started making the Indian run around the court, placing drop shots to her forehand corner then lobbing the shuttle long and finally killing points off with attacks to Sindhu's body.

Tai got more success by attacking Sindhu's body than Akane Yamaguchi did in their quarter-final on Friday. Sindhu showed just how much she had worked on her defence over the past couple of months against the relentless Yamaguchi. But her Taiwanese opponent proved to be a much sterner test of character. She wasn't exactly hammering down smashes at Sindhu's body, preferring instead to hit pinpoint shots which needed Sindhu to contort her body awkwardly to return the shots.

Once the scores were level at 11-11, the contest became a brawl, with the two shuttlers locked in close combat till 17-17. That's when Tai got a slice of good fortune. A shot from her hit the netcord and fell unkindly into Sindhu's side of the court. From there, the Taiwanese took the first game.

"If I had won that point, maybe the result would have been different," Sindhu told reporters later. "I should have taken the first game, that's what I felt. It was not that easy, but it was crucial. If I had won the first game, it would have been different."

Sindhu, though, did not become what she has by conceding easily. She started the second game by earning her first two points with down-the-line smashes. Tai responded with a down-the-line smash of her own to draw level at 2-2.

The pair was last seen standing at the same spot at 4-4, before Tai hit a unreturnable drop shot and vroomed away with the lead. Most of the points Tai had conceded in the match were a result of her own errors. Some of these were at critical moments, such as with the score at 9-5 and 10-6, where she sent the shuttle into the net without Sindhu forcing it out of her.

Yet, both Sindhu and the Taiwanese shuttler agreed that she had been flawless in the entire match.

"Think I gave my best performance today," Tai told journalists later. "I didn't make any major mistakes today. I'm a player who makes mistakes from my side most of the times. That's why I have pressure from within. Today I reduced them. That's why I was not under as much pressure as I used to be."

At one point, she was playing in such a trance €" otherwise known as zone to lesser mortals €" that she did not even know that she had hit a 358 kmph smash in the match.

She had more consequential things on her mind.

Hours after her entry into the final, her compatriots, Yang Lee and Chi-Lin Wang, demolished a Chinese pair to win the men's doubles title, Taiwan's first Olympics medal in badminton in 29 years.

On Sunday, Tai can emulate that, with China's Chen Yu Fei standing in her path.

"Tomorrow will be a very evenly-matched contest and a difficult game because she is a very solid player," she said before saying, "I'm not nervous about the next game."

Also See: Tokyo Olympics 2020: When and where to watch PV Sindhu vs Tai Tzu-ying live telecast on tv and online in India

Tokyo Olympics 2020: Big-game hunter PV Sindhu starting to come into her own

Tokyo Olympics 2020: PV Sindhu suffers straight-games loss to Tai Tzu-ying in semis, to face He Bing Jiao for bronze

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