A new beginning for Sindhu

P V Sindhu poses with her trophy after the women's singles final match at the 2018 BWF World Tour Finals badminton competition in Guangzhou, China. AFP

Questions, questions — on her mental strength, her inability to close out big matches, and above all, on her frequent failures in finals. Pusarla Venkata Sindhu certainly was tired of answering them. But the gracious competitor that she is, Sindhu never lost her cool against any questioner. And then, on Sunday morning in Guangzhou, the bright star of Indian badminton came up with a reply that was emphatic enough to silence her detractors. Sindhu’s triumph in the Badminton World Tour Finals wasn’t just another title success for the Indian. True, it was the first such win for a player from this country and brought her a big pay cheque but well beyond that, the victory marked a remarkable turnaround for a player who was fast earning an unwanted reputation for faltering in big matches. Seven straight final defeats had blotted Sindhu’s book before Guangzhou and those included three major events from the Indian perspective — the Commonwealth Games, World Championships and the Asian Games. No wonder then, relief, more than joy, was the overwhelming emotion on Sindhu’s face as she hit home a winner at match point against Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara.

Even when she took pride in winning silver medals, deep inside, Sindhu herself must have been aware that those weren’t the right rewards for a player of her class and ability. Very often, she had fallen into the trap of playing to the tunes of her rivals instead of stamping her authority. And when things wouldn’t go her way, a streak of impatience would creep into her mind to derail her chances. In Guangzhou, a different and more determined Sindhu was on view as she dismantled her opponents with ruthless efficiency right from the group stages and through to the business end.

With wins over defending champion Akane Yamaguchi of Japan, World No 1 Tai Tzu-Ying of Chinese Taipei and former world champion Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand, Sindhu was primed for the final. Ably guided by Pullela Gopichand, the tall 23-year-old exhibited a tighter defence and more composure on court, staying patient to pick out holes in her rivals’ games. Added to her excellent court coverage and attacking play, these facets meant the Indian was a touch too hot to handle. Coming right at the end of a long year, the win marks a new beginning for Sindhu as she prepares for the stiffer challenges ahead. Tokyo 2020 is the big goal in the reigning Olympic silver medallist’s book and Guangzhou certainly seems to have placed her on the perfect launching pad.

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A new beginning for Sindhu

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