Tai Tzu Ying is the trick question PV Sindhu and Coach Park Tae Sang have been preparing for the past three months. In the absence of current Olympic champion Carolina Marin, the player from Chinese Taipei has identified herself as Sindhu’s # 1 rival, according to Park. They will meet in the semifinals of the Tokyo 2020 Olympics on Saturday to decide which of them will compete for gold.
Sindhu eliminated the last trace of Japanese presence in the badminton draw with a quarterfinal victory over fourth-placed Akane Yamaguchi, while Tai Tzu suppressed Intanon’s vigorous Thai attack in a three-game thriller. So far in Tokyo, Sindhu has been a composite appearance, the ability to vary her pace and remain steadfast in the face of a comeback. The forehand movements, the ability to keep the bird in the air for a second, and to achieve a surprising angle at the last second with her flexible, almost invisible wrist movement make Tai Tzu a particularly annoying opponent. PV Sindhu has lost the last three matches.
But this is the Olympics and few individual female players (with the exception of Marin) can match Sindhu in the pure and bloody mentality of having the opportunity. At the games in Rio Sindhu had beaten Tai Tzu in the run-up to the quarter-finals. At the 2019 World Championships, which India won, Tai Tzu lost in the final eighth stage.
Tai Tzu thrives by scoring points with her punches, and Sindhu has to use speed to keep the wheel in play and not give her opponent leeway to dictate the competition. If Tai Tzu is deprived of the opportunity to develop her natural play and striking style, Tai Tzu can go broke and stumble upon mistakes. Sindhu will fight in the semi-finals on Saturday as the one with a little calmer and while the competition is reasonably even, India’s big game temperament could work as a great advantage.
The other semi-final will be an entirely Chinese affair between Chen Yufei and He Bingjiao. The two losing semi-finalists will meet in the tiebreaker for bronze. If Sindhu deciphers Tzu’s riddle, she will be the top contender for gold.