SINGAPORE - Pure relief was etched on the faces of shuttlers Shinta Mulia Sari and Yao Lei after their nerve-racking, 69-minute quarter-final victory at the SEA Games yesterday.
Overcoming a six-point deficit in the rubber game, Singapore's top women's doubles pair ensured that the Republic's shuttlers would not return home empty-handed for the first time since 1997.
They are guaranteed of at least a bronze, which is awarded to semi-finalists, after a 21-16, 20-22, 26-24 over Imawan Gebby Ristiyani and Nuraidah Tiara Rosalia from Indonesia.
"We didn't think about the medal but I thought we had let the match slip away," said Shinta, 25.
The second seeds trailed 8-14 in the final set before Yao made a tactical switch. The 23-year-old Jiangsu native noticed their opponents had figured out the directions of their smashes and slices.
She said: "We then decided to play a simpler game and let them attack. And when they made a mistake, we countered and pounced."
The world no. 16 duo pulled level at 17-17 with the Indonesians, who are ranked 25th. But there was to be more drama. Leading 22-21, Shinta sent her match-point serve into the net.
"It was a terrible mistake to make at such a big moment," she reflected with a sigh.
Having had to use sign language when they first paired up, Shinta has since learnt basic Mandarin to communicate with her partner on court.