Determination is her hallmark

Determination is her hallmark

Prizefighter

Determination is her hallmark

 It isn’t surprising that P V Sindhu is an admirer of the fighting spirit that Rafael Nadal brings on to a tennis court.

Like the Spaniard, who puts his life on the line attempting to win matches, Sindhu too scores high when it comes to grit and determination on court. The 21-year-old from Hyderabad has made a name for herself over the last three years, riding on splendid performances that keep telling ‘I won’t give up.’

Her matches in Rio have been a testimony to her spirit. She marched into the final just dropping one game, defeating higher ranked players in Tai Tzu Ying and Wang Yihan along the way. Blessed with good height – she is five-feet 10-1/2-inch tall – her reach has made it hard for her rivals to find open spaces on court. Her ability to keep her rivals engaged in long rallies before finishing off the points has been the highlight here while her unwavering focus has been a revelation.

“Her attitude and never-say-die spirit are the striking features of her game,” Sindhu’s coach Pullela Gopichand had remarked, analysing his ward’s rise.

Sindhu came under Gopichand’s guidance pretty early, after picking up the first lessons in badminton from Mehboob Ali at the Railway Institute badminton courts in Secunderabad. Hailing from a family of sportspersons, Sindhu’s entry into sports was no surprise but her choice of badminton was.

Her father P V Ramana and mother P Vijaya both are volleyball players. Ramana was part of India’s bronze medal winning team at the 1986 Asian Games. An Arjuna awardee, Ramana was keen the younger of his two daughters — the elder is a doctor — should get into sport.

Sindhu picked badminton and her rise has been swift, ever since she started the game at the age of eight. Coming through the junior ranks, she won the Asian Youth title in 2010 beating the same Japanese opponent – Nozomi Okuhara – whom she defeated in the Olympic Games semifinals on Thursday.

An important breakthrough in her career came at the 2012 China Masters when she defeated the reigning Olympic champion Li Xuerui in the semifinals but Sindhu had to wait longer for her first Grand Prix Gold title. It arrived at the 2013 Malaysian Masters.

Sindhu then carved a place for herself in history the same year by becoming the first Indian woman to win a medal at the World Championships, claiming the bronze. She repeated the feat next year, giving India the hope that there is someone following in the footsteps of Saina Nehwal, who breached many barriers en route to the top rung of the game.

Like in Saina’s case, parental support has been a vital ingredient in Sindhu’s rise. Her father Ramana recalled the days when they had to travel more than 50km for training sessions at the Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy. “Those days were tough but now, we stay close to the academy,” he said.

Journey time is short but the work Sindhu puts in has increased. Training sessions start as early as 4.00 am and the better part of the day is spent on fine-tuning different aspects of the game. All those sacrifices seem to have paid off now.

“It is a proud moment,” Ramana had said before her daughter embarked on the Olympic journey. “We could not compete at the Olympic Games as we weren’t strong enough in volleyball. Sindhu has gone a step higher than us.”

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