Big-match experience gives Sindhu edge over Chen

AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili

PV Sindhu's 21-9, 21-13 win against Japan's Akane Yamaguchi on Friday ensured that she ended the group stage of the World Superseries Finals without a single loss. It was also the Indian player's 43rd win this season, her most in a single year. She had won 41 matches during her blockbuster 2016.

Sindhu has lost only 12 matches this year -- seven of those losses coming against Taiwan's Tai Tzu Ying, Japan's Nozomi Okuhara and China's Chen Yufei. While Sindhu's rivalry with Tai and Okuhara is well documented, it is Chen who she will face in the semi-finals in Dubai.

And for Sindhu, Chen -- whom she has played four times already this year -- might well be the biggest roadblock in winning the Dubai tournament.

How have they fared this year?

Sindhu | Won - 43, Lost - 12

Of the four players left in the women's singles draw -- Yamaguchi and former world champion Ratchanok Intanon being the other two -- Sindhu has easily had the most successful year. Her two Superseries titles in 2017 are as many as the other three women combined. She won a silver at the World Championships and reached the finals of the Hong Kong Open. She also won five of the six semi-finals she has played this year.

Chen | Won - 34, Lost - 17

The Superseries format was adopted in 2007 but 2017 was the first year when China failed to win a single women's singles title. However, the teenaged Chen showed plenty of promise by winning a bronze at the Worlds. She also reached the semis of the Denmark Open, where she defeated Sindhu in the opening round.

What have they done in this tournament?

Sindhu dropped only one game in the group stages -- against China's He Bingjiao. She won in straight games against Japan's Sayaka Sato and world No. 2 Yamaguchi. The three wins meant that she topped the group ahead of Yamaguchi, who will face Group B topper Intanon in the last four.

Chen's did not begin well in Dubai as she lost to world No. 1 Tai in her first-ever match at the tournament, but she then defeated Intanon and last year's losing finalist Sung Ji Hyun of South Korea to finish second in what was arguably the more competitive group.

Head to head

The players have met five times in their career, with Sindhu leading 3-2. Their four matches this year have been evenly split.

Keys to the match

Both of Chen's wins against Sindhu this year have come in the opening round and Sindhu's big-match experience might give her the edge in this match. Moreover, the drift in Dubai has meant that more powerful players have generally fared better -- and Sindhu's power play can be matched by few on the women's circuit. The Indian has generally been troubled by players like Tai and Intanon, who rely mostly on deception, but Chen's game is built on a solid defence and speedy court coverage.

With Tai already out of the tournament and Spain's Carolina Marin and Okuhara missing from the draw, this might be Sindhu's best chance to end her recent losing streak in the semi-finals and finals of major tournaments.