The year 2022 began with the hope that PV Sindhu will dominate a relatively weak playing field in New Delhi at India Open Super 500. However, after three wins against Indian opponents, the run ended at the hands – specifically, the left hand – of Supanida Katethong. The Thai shuttler came up with a spirited attacking display to end Sindhu’s run in the semifinal.
Just over a year later, at India Open 2023 – now a Super 750 event with a plethora of big stars from around the badminton world – India’s very own superstar of the sport currently, ran into Supanida Katethong again. And for the second year in a row, Sindhu’s tournament was ended by her.
The battle between the two appeared as if Katethong had everything figured out since the beginning, while Sindhu was trying to put pieces together along the way. The Indian eventually lost 14-21, 20-21 in 45 minutes. Shortly after the loudest roar of the night had gone up, it was a result that left a good crowd that had gathered since morning in stunned silence.
That Sindhu came back from 12-17 down in the second game, to first level 19-19 and then celebrate (briefly) winning the second game, arguably provided the most thrilling moments of the day. But a review from Katethong that took what felt like ages to complete, showed the shuttle fell in favour of the Thai player. Katethong had saved a game point and shortly after she duly took her first point to win the match.
Game one saw Sindhu 4-11 at the interval but she recovered from there to make it a 2-point game before Katethong ran away with the finishing stages. The second game was a thrilling battle from the very beginning, but even then, Katethong’s slow drops to the front court were causing the Indian all sorts of trouble.
In the end, as Katethong converted her match point, she held her arms aloft and celebrated with her coach. A certain Kim Ji Hyun, who was animated throughout the second game, driving her player forward and dictating tactics, was all smiles in the coaching chair. That she used to be Sindhu’s coach not too long ago, when she became world champion and had celebrated with her on what was one of her biggest wins, just added to the element of drama on the night. Speaking later, Kim said Katethong had only won just won the first-round match, surprised by the number of questions she was having to answer from the Indian media. For her, the job had only begun, she made it clear.
Of course it wasn’t supposed to be this way for Sindhu. The crowd was hoping for a Sindhu win, fighting along with her as she sunk on her knees at one point in the second game facing a deficit. They cheered her along at that point, trying to pick her up, and she responded too. The comeback from five points down in game two was stirring, it had the arena bouncing. But the game-plan from Katethong was too water-tight on the night from the word go for the Indian to force the decider and apply the pressure later on with what would have been a raucous crowd.
It wasn’t to be for Sindhu in Delhi for the second year in a row.