Sindhu ends runner-up at Malaysia Masters

Star Indian shuttler PV Sindhu's wait for a much-needed title extended further as she faltered in the finishing line, going down in three games to world no. 7 Wang Zhi Yi of China in the summit clash here on Sunday.
P V Sindhu
P V Sindhu

Kuala Lumpur | Star Indian shuttler PV Sindhu's wait for a much-needed title extended further as she faltered at the finish line, going down in three games to world No. 7 Wang Zhi Yi of China in the summit clash here on Sunday.

Fifth seed Sindhu, a double Olympic medallist, last won the Singapore Open and Commonwealth Games gold in 2022 and finished runner-up at the Madrid Spain Masters in 2023.

The title here looked within her reach when world No. 15 Sindhu held a massive 11-3 lead in the decider but the former world champion suffered a shocking meltdown after the final change of ends to go down 21-16 5-21 16-21 in a 79-minute women's singles final.

The title would have been the icing on the cake but her impressive run to the final will still give her a lot of confidence as Sindhu looks to put the finishing touches ahead of the Paris Olympics.

It was her first final appearance on the BWF World Tour after more than a year.

"Overall, I can say that it's been a very good match. It's a bit disappointing, but a lot of positives to take from this match and the whole tournament as well," said Sindhu ranked 15th in the world.

"I am happy that I at least came to the finals, I played well. These matches will definitely give me a lot of confidence, but I could have won that. It's just not one of those days."

Sindhu used a combination of poise and power to dominate the proceedings against the reigning Asian champion Wang for most part of the match but all fell apart after the break in the decider as the trophy slipped out of her hands.

A silver and bronze medallist in the last two editions of the Olympics, Sindhu had lost to Wang at the Arctic Open last year but has defeated the Chinese twice in three meetings.

Interestingly, it was Wang against whom Sindhu had won the finals during her last BWF title at the Singapore Open.

Sindhu was leading 11-3 at the interval in the third game but she fell into a pool of errors after the change of sides as Wang won 18 of the next 23 points to seal the trophy in her name.

World No. 15 Sindhu, who will be eyeing her third Olympic medal at the Paris Games, has looked subdued since making a comeback from a knee injury early this season.

It has been a while since Sindhu has defeated big guns such as Carolina Marin, Tai Tzu Ying, Chen Yu Fei and Akane Yamaguchi -- whom she is expected to come across at the Paris Olympics.

But the 28-year-old from Hyderabad, who now trains at the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy in Bengaluru, looked in fine fettle this week but the loss against Wang from a winning position is something which she would look to address in the coming months.

The final lived up to the expectations as the two traded blows right from the start, looking to play at a high pace. Sindhu managed a 6-4 lead only for Wang to claw back with two points.

The Indian showed great defence and kept putting the pressure on Wang, who too aimed to inject pace in the rallies and disposed of anything in the hitting zone. But the Chinese overdid things as a cross-court net flick and another return went wide. The rallies got tighter and fast-paced but Sindhu managed to hold an 11-9 lead at the break.

Sindhu left Wang crammed for space with her returns to move to 13-9. The angled returns, the defensive lifts and trademark smashes became more regular as Sindhu dominated the proceedings to jump to a 17-10 lead.

The Indian committed a few errors as Wang made it 16-19. However, Sindhu grabbed four game points when Wang went long and sealed it comfortably.

The second game was a forgettable affair for Sindhu, who struggled with the conditions.

In the decider, Sindhu rediscovered her aggressive self as she looked to take the shuttle early to exert pressure on her opponent. Sindhu took a sizable 11-3 lead at the interval with Wang spraying wide.

However, Wang scripted a sensational turnaround after the break as she won two punishing rallies, which included 55 and 56 shots. With Sindhu committing errors both from the baseline and sideline, Wang grabbed five straight points.

Eventually, Wang grabbed six championship points with another precise return at the backline. Sindhu saved two before going long again as Wang threw her racquet in celebration.

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