What goes around comes around. This was certainly the case when PV Sindhu met Nozomi Okuhara in Basel for the final of the Badminton World Championships.
The 5th seeded Indian ace couldn’t have had the odds stacked against her any more. After a string of losses in major finals, such as the 2016 Olympic Games, the 2017 and 2018 World Championships and the 2018 Commonwealth and Asian Games, her big game temperament was being severely questioned. To add to that, her opposition for the final was none other than Nozomi Okuhara. It was the same opponent against which PV Sindhu had lost in heart-breaking fashion a little over 2 years ago. The 110-minute epic finale in Glasgow is considered to be one of the greatest matches in badminton history. To put it simply, Sindhu had her back against the wall, with the weight of a nation’s hopes on her shoulders.
What came next was a sight to behold. Redeeming Glasgow in the process, PV Sindhu raced to unassailable leads in both the games, with the score reading 11-2 and 11-4 at the interval. To say the Okuhara did not have an answer to whatever Sindhu dished out would be an understatement. Razor-sharp turns, big smashes and pinpoint accuracy, PV Sindhu had it all. Within 38 minutes, the match was done and dusted. The final score? 21-7 and 21-7 in favour of the Indian Ace.
In the blink of an eye, PV Sindhu had finished off the final, making a mockery of the occasion. Before you knew, she was on top of the podium and giving her statement to the press. “Last time, I lost in the final, before that also I lost in the final, so it is a very important win for me. I want to thank the crowd for supporting me. I won it for my country and I am very proud of being an Indian,” Sindhu was quoted as saying after the match.
Record Breaker Sindhu!
The win shattered numerous records. The win was Sindhu’s 5th World Championship medal. With this, she equalled the record for most by a female singles player alongside former Olympic and world champion Zhang Ning of China. The victory was also the most resounding margin in the women’s singles final at the Worlds since the 21-point format was adopted in 2006.
To the common eye, the entire tournament would seem like a breeze for Sindhu. She ended up dropping a solitary game during the course of the tournament - to old foe Tai Tzu-Ying in the quarterfinals. Even World No. 3 Chen Yufei was simply tossed aside during the semi-finals.
However, badminton aficionados certainly know better. Sindhu certainly was better prepared this time and showed an admirable ability to learn from past failures and adapt her game accordingly. The final in Glasgow was characterized by long rallies which ultimately lead to Sindhu’s downfall. She was better prepared this time, being aggressive from the start and asserting her dominance from the get go. The decision to undergo fitness training under Sreekanth Verma for the last 2 years also seems to have paid dividends, with the shuttler looking sharper on the court than ever before.
While a great achievement in itself, Sindhu shows no signs of resting on her laurels. Her ultimate aim is to get the Gold next year at the Tokyo Olympics. With this performance, that aim seems extremely realistic and a win there will cement her place as the most successful Indian woman in sport.