On Sunday, Indians were glued to their TV sets as PV Sindhu stepped onto the court for the 3rd time in a BWF World Championship final. She had won 2 Bronzes and 2 Silvers in previous editions in 2013, 2014, 2017 and 2018 respectively; However, the Gold had remained elusive. Sindhu has a host of heartbreaks in the finals, winning Silver at 2 previous editions of world championships, Asian Games and Olympics. But she left behind all the baggage this time.
As the backhand lift from Nozomi Okuhara found the net, Sindhu scripted history at Basel, Switzerland. 21-7, 21-7 screamed the scoreboard on court 1 at St. Jakobshalle Arena, Basel as the Tiranga went up and a teary-eyed Sindhu looked at it chanting Jana Gana Mana.
#Exclusive | Very happy with the way @pvsindhu1 has progressed, and it’s great to see finish off with a Gold at the BWF World Championship this year: #PullelaGopichand, PV Sindhu’s coach, tells TIMES NOW. pic.twitter.com/uoFHHktmvB
— TIMES NOW (@TimesNow) August 26, 2019
After a lull in 2018, Indian Badminton has started picking up in the 2nd half of 2019. Sindhu has had some good runs before coming to World Championships at Basel. At Indonesia open, she made it to final, losing to Yamaguchi. In Japan open, she again lost to Yamaguchi, but this time in the QF. She pulled out of Thailand open to recuperate for World Championships. The road to final has not been easy at Basel either. Though her nemesis since last 3 months, Yamaguchi, was knocked out in 2nd round, PV Sindhu met Tai Tzu Ying in the quarters.
For the uninitiated and non-Badminton fans, consider her as the Virat Kohli of Women’s singles, who almost never fails. After dropping the first game, 12-21, everyone thought that the ghost of the past is back to haunt her. However, Sindhu came back stronger and took the 2nd 23-21 in a nail-biting finish to level scores. In the decider, she started strong but it was always on the tenterhooks. Finally, it was Sindhu who held her nerves and got better of TTY, winning the game and match 12-21, 23-21, 21-19. From there on, there was no looking back. Sindhu was absolutely clinical in semis, beating Chinese Chen Yu Fei 21-7, 21-14.
The final was a complete bloodbath. Okuhara had played a marathon just the day before against the Thai player Intanon while Sindhu had wrapped up in 41 minutes. Okuhara was not in her elements and looked zoned out. She was trying to shorten the rallies, smashing overhead shuttles from the backcourt and tapping from midcourt to Sindhu’s hands.
Sindhu had a plan from the beginning, playing on all 4 corners, setting up the court and going for the kill at the opportune moment. The smashes from the backcourt and rushing to the net to tap absolutely stamped her authority on the court. Sindhu didn’t allow Okuhara to come up with a counter as she kept her on her toes. Sindhu lost a few points in the middle but for every single point she lost, she compensated it by earning 4. The match was over before Okuhara could understand what hit her.
With the win, Sindhu has put a lot of doubters to rest who questioned her big match credentials and termed her a choker. With the Gold at World Championship yesterday, Sindhu has equalled the best-ever record by any Women’s Singles player, Zhang Ning of China, who also won 1 Gold, 2 Silver and 2 Bronze. And Sindhu is just 24. She is just getting started.
While Sindhu created history, another Indian shuttler from Men’s Singles department, Sai Praneeth, rewrote it after 36 years. It was Prakash Padukone, who last won a World Championship medal at Copenhagen in 1983 in MS category. Like Sindhu, even Sai’s game had picked up in the 2nd half of this year. He had a couple of good runs in the super series events before coming to Basel. At Japan open, he went up to the Semis before falling to Kento Momota. In Thailand, he went up to the quarters, again falling to a Japanese Kanta Tsuneyama. In Basel, Sai has beaten the world No 4 and world no 6 consecutively, both Indonesians, to win the Bronze. Had he been not in Momota’s half, he may even have changed the colour of the medal.
Again, for non-Badminton fan readers, if TTY in the earlier example was Virat Kohli of WS Badminton, Momota is Kohli + Rohit Sharma + Jos Buttler. Consider this, on his way to win Gold, Momota has not dropped a single game. Nobody except Prannoy has gone past 10+ in both the games against him. Prannoy was 18-21, 12-21. Momota won the final 21-9. 21-3. If Sindhu’s was an annihilation, this was induced hypoxia.
So to fall to Momota isn’t a shame. Sai did brilliant and should hold his chin up. He was in a draw, which realistically speaking, would have been difficult for Momota as well, as he hates playing Indonesians. But, like Momota, even Sai has not dropped a game till Semis winning straight games against both higher-ranked Indonesians in pre-QF and QF. It’s a commendable feat. It’s only onward and upward for him from here.
After a blistering 2017 and a forgettable 2018, Indian Badminton seems to be in the right hands and picking up before Tokyo, 2020. The Koreans seem to be doing something right with Indian Badminton. Their methods have been similar to Mulyo Handoyo, the man behind the spectacular result of 2017. The Koreans themselves have said that the standard of players is very good. All they are working on is the mental aspect. With Gopichand being the guiding light, Koreans focus on the right area and the results coming in, we can hope for a blockbuster at Tokyo 2020.