And so begins another season begins for PV Sindhu. When you pause and reflect, it is incredible to think this is the third separate decade in which Sindhu is an international shuttler. The 26-year-old is no stranger to the grind of the badminton tour, and just over three weeks after a rare non-podium finish at the World Championships, she is back in action again.
That’s the nature of the tour these days. From the barrenness of 2020 and some part of 2021, things have picked up once again for shuttlers around the world. It was something that Sindhu referred to in the build-up to Tokyo Olympics where she went on to create history as the first female athlete from India to win multiple medals. It was rare at this level to get so much off-season time and she had hoped then that it would help her add new skills because it wasn’t possible to find the time otherwise.
And as she began a potentially hectic 2022 at the Indian Open on Tuesday, fine-tuning the game is once again on her mind. The top seed sailed into the women’s singles second round of the India Open in Delhi on Tuesday with a straight-game win. She cruised past compatriot Sri Krishna Priya Kudaravalli 21-5 21-16 in her opening round.
“I played her after a long time, I wasn’t taking it easy. It was important to start well. I went into the lead at the start, maintained a flow and finished it off. Playing for the first time in a stadium for a tournament, you have to make sure you get used to strokes get quickly,” Sindhu said about her quick start.
But with not much time between the end of 2021 season in Huelva and the start of the 2022 calendar year with events in India, Sindhu stressed on the importance of evolving.
“Definitely I need to tune my game a lot more and work on my skills, also learn new weapons,” the former world champion said. “You know, everybody is going to read your game one or the other time.”
She added: “It’s important to keep changing my game every time I play a single player. Nowadays you see, we watch previous matches, they know what needs to be done. Need to startegise accordingly. There is not much time, it is a busy schedule too so you have to stay fit, make sure we give 100% every time we go on the court.”
One of the areas that Sindhu has struggled in recent times is finding ways past consistently against Carolina Marin and Tai Tzu Ying, who have a knack of exploiting the Indian’s weakness. While the world got to see Sindhu’s improved defence in Tokyo, Sindhu clearly sees that as an area to improve, without naming any players that she has problems against.
“That [the kind of new weapons to be added] changes with every player, it depends,” Sindhu said during the press conference organised by the Badminton Association of India. “Sometimes you have to understand their game and play the fast game if needed, or play consistent rallies. I have to definitely work on that, not just play one type of game. Everybody knows my weapon is attacks, so my opponents won’t give me those attacking options. So I need to play a defensive game at times, I have to be perfect in that. These are things I need to tune and make it perfect.”
As well, 2022 is a big year in terms of multi-team events. With Commonwealth Games, Asian Games to go with All England and World Championships, things are bound to be hectic.
“From January to December there are a lot of tournaments, we need to pick and choose. Need to make sure we are physically and mentally fit. There is a long stretch where we have continuous tournaments like Worlds, CWG, Asian Games... I have to stay injury-free, and make sure I train hard, stay fit. That is when I take my trainer and physio to maintain my fitness throughout,” Sindhu said.
Speaking about what young Indian shuttlers can improve on, Sindhu said, “A lot of things to be worked on, not just playing against me to play at a higher level, when it comes to skills and fitness. That should be there from every young girl I would say. Pace of the rallies, too. Depends on individuals, when you see at the international level, there are players who like the slow type of game and rally, some are really attacking and aggressive players. Need to make sure you change your game accordingly.”
Recently, Danish veteran Hans Kristian Vittinghus had suggested that organisers of tournaments must start to use faster shuttles (there are different categories of shuttles that travel at different pace through air). He had argued in a wishlist for improving badminton that the slow shuttles are “not speeding up the game, on the contrary it gives longer rallies, longer breaks and a less interesting game.”
Sindhu, who could presumably gain from such a move because of her attacking game, said she didn’t have a strong opinion about it and that it was important to adapt.
“When it comes to shuttle speed, it depends on the stadium; how big or small it is, there is also air-conditioning. So we have to get used to the shuttles that are provided. As players, if we put in a word and certain things are not right, then things are going to change. But for me... whatever it is for me, for the opponent too it is the same. So you have to get used to how the things are,” she said.