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Sindhu 2.0: Fitter, fresher, hungrier

A knee injury during the French Open in October last year, added to the 28-year-old’s woes that kept her out of action until the Badminton Asian Team Championship last week where Sindhu led India to a historic gold.
Last Updated 25 February 2024, 21:43 IST

Bengaluru: PV Sindhu has an enviable resume that few Indian athletes can hope to match. A two-time Olympic medallist and former world badminton champion was on a trophy/ medal-winning spree for years but, like every sportsperson, Sindhu too couldn't escape the clutches of a lean patch.

A knee injury during the French Open in October last year, added to the 28-year-old’s woes that kept her out of action until the Badminton Asian Team Championship last week where Sindhu led India to a historic gold. 

That marked the beginning of what can be termed the second innings of her long career. Well aware of the current scenario, the star shuttler spoke about becoming the student of the sport all over again to unlearn, learn and experiment in order to bring her game back on track. 

In that quest, Sindhu shifted base to Bengaluru from Hyderabad in November to train at the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy (PPBA). Apart from Padukone as the mentor, Indonesia’s Agus Dwi Santoso is her coach now that also has a new trainer and physio. Currently ranked 11 in the world, the shuttler is set to begin her comeback journey on the BWF Tour at the French Open next week followed by the All England before playing the Swiss Open.

Excerpts…

How difficult is it to learn new things as you grow older? 

I definitely enjoy the process a lot more now. I feel that there have been a lot of changes being made to evolve as a player. Because my entire team is different now and the perspectives are all new and different. So I feel there are still so many things to learn.

Getting injured is never easy. How did you deal with it?

Of course I was upset. But the break was good because I got a lot of time to train physically, mentally and understand the game from a whole new angle both on and off the court. Now I can say I have got the best people around me. 

There were the highs and then came the lows... 

I saw a lot of criticism. Comments like ‘she is old now’, ‘maybe she is tired’, ‘she’s done’, ‘she has enough Olympic medals so what next?’, I heard them all. I guess it's all in the mind how one takes all such outside noise. I ignored all these talks and focused on what I had to do. I don’t want to have regrets in the future that I didn't do enough when I could. All I know is to give it my 100 percent, if it happens great, if it doesn’t, that’s okay. At least I know I had the zeal to take up the challenge.

How did it feel to lead India to their first-ever gold at the Badminton Asian Team Championship?

Personally, I was very happy. Because I was back on track. First event after a long break. I think I did my part well as a captain and team-mate because it was important to give that opening point by winning the first singles. It gives me a lot of confidence to prepare for the upcoming tournaments. 

Speaking about competition, can you tell us more about your on-court rivalry with Carolina Marin?

(Hahaha) Well, she tries to play a lot of mind games. That’s her style of play. From the beginning of the match she does things like taking the shuttle faster or annoying you by shouting loudly. It’s not right but it's all in the game. So yeah, my focus is to remain calm, especially with her.

I will be playing my first round (at the French Open) against Canada’s Michelle Li and if I win that and Marin wins her first match, we meet in the second round. It's going to be a battle again (tilts head, raises her eyebrows and smiles). 

Finally, the Olympics. Will it be different this time? 

For me this time, the Olympics are going to be different. There is always pressure. I have two medals and I know the overall experience, but I have to be much smarter, play smart. I mean, doing the finer details differently. Yeah, people can talk, only I know what it takes behind the scenes to live up to the expectation. Let’s see. 

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(Published 25 February 2024, 21:43 IST)

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