Ratchanok Intanon - all creative wrists and spatial genius - beat PV Sindhu in the semifinal of the Indonesia Open Super 1000 over three games and 54 minutes on Saturday. Intanon made her first final in 22 months, winning the semi 15-21, 21-9, 21-14, while Sindhu is yet to go beyond this stage in four tournaments since the Tokyo Olympics this year.
Deceptive players and stroke makers, namely Tai Tzu Ying and Intanon, have usually made for thorny customers for Sindhu. Ranked No 8 in the world, Intanon fought her way back into the game against Sindhu from a game down - going for the lines, appearing to hold the shuttle mid-air for a nanosecond before weaving crosscourt drops with the most imperceptible of wrist actions and alternating pace mid-rally to build a masterful web. When she wasn't sending delicate drops floating into Sindhu's short backhand corner, she'd be whipping straight smashes.
"(After losing the first game) I thought I have nothing to lose anymore," Intanon would tell BWF after the match, "Her (Sindhu) mental and (physical) fitness was better than me I think now but I just gave everything today. I tried to maintain my thinking. My target is to prepare for the World Championship so I was not thinking too much about the game. I'm playing a final after quite a long time, so I'm happy." She'll be facing Korean teen phenom An Se- Young on Sunday.
Intanon has had a rough year so far - she lost her mother after the Olympics and would suffer a right shoulder injury in training and retire midway through her match against Chen Yufei in the Uber Cup. She wore strappings on her shoulder in Saturday's semifinal too. Her on-court movements - prancing on her toes in balletic fashion and precision pushes -- like the one in the decider where she sent the shuttle flying over Sindhu's shoulder, who swatted hopelessly at air and watched it drop obediently inside the backline -- can frustrate opponents. It's the kind of shot that can mess with a player's head. It would bring up an 11-5 lead for Intanon. Sindhu would miss a regulation net kill soon after, despite having set it up with some thought and picking the shuttle early at the top of the tape.
Sindhu has now lost to Intanon in all their three meetings so far this year. The previous two defeats came at the Thailand Open and World Tour Finals in January this year. Sindhu now has two days to regroup for the World Tour Finals and a week's break later, the World Championships.