Glasgow: Three BWF World Championship medals – two bronze, one silver. Silver medal at the Rio Olympics. And all this in a six-year period in the senior international circuit. And to think that she is a 22-year-old.
P V Sindhu almost came within a point of crowning this journey by becoming the first ever Indian world champion but was denied the honour by another 22-year-old from Japan, Nozomi Okuhara at the Emirates Arena on Sunday in a match for the ages.
It was perhaps one of the best women’s singles matches in the history of the world championship and both the players showed the grit and determination to not just fight for every point but stretch the limit of physical endurance to enthral the audience.
But despite her best effort, Sindhu fell short in her quest for gold and bagged a silver medal, India’s second in successive editions after Saina Nehwal’s in Jakarta, in 2015.
So despite the awe-inspiring performance, the obvious question was where did Sindhu fall short, if at all?
So close to gold
“If I have to think what I could have done differently, I would say nothing. I tried everything and on her part also she tried everything. And after 20-20 even if you try don’t try, you just play and anything can happen,” was Sindhu’s response.
There is no doubt that Sindhu fought till the end without giving up but in purely badminton sense the Indian was found wanting with the precision of her downward strokes and Okuhara managed to control the pace of most of those rallies till either of them ended up making a mistake.
Chief coach Pullela Gopichand, though pleased with the performance of his ward, was quick to point out that she was still a “work in progress”.
“That’s the beauty of Sindhu. She isn’t a finish product yet. There are quite a few areas that she can improve upon. But despite that she already has three world championship medals and an Olympic silver,” said Gopichand.
When Sindhu won her first world championship bronze back in 2013, Gopichand had insisted she would take another couple of years to become more consistent and be looked up as one of the top stars in world badminton.
Scope for improvement
The silver medal winning run in Rio probably showed that Sindhu was there and thereabouts and another final in Glasgow has only underlined that belief.
It also showed in the preparation for the World Championship. Before going to Rio, Gopichand had decided to isolate Sindhu from the outer world with her phone being confiscated and the coach controlling all aspects of her life from food, training to social life.
But this time around, Gopichand and Indonesian coach Mulyo Handoyo only concentrated on working on her skills and endurance and left the 22-year-old alone otherwise.
“Before Rio there was big gap between her and the top level. But now she is there. So you don’t have to do a lot different to prepare for such major events anymore. She got good two months of training and since it was the World Championship I used to be there during the 1 vs 3 or 1 vs 2 sessions on the court. But that is all we did this time around,” explains Gopichand.
Even Sindhu admits that the Rio Olympic silver medal winning run changed everything for her as he felt more confident about her own abilities and began dreaming higher. “This silver is something different as it is one year from Rio and I am happy to make it to the final again as everyone was gunning for me. There are a lot of positives to take from this performance and has also taught me that I need to keep evolving as a player with every tournament.”
Gopichand on his part gave a rather philosophical tinge to the entire journey so far. “There is always a time and occasion for everything. This (the slugfest between Sindhu and Okuhara) could have been the Rio Olympics semi-final (where Sindhu beat the Japanese rather easily) but it happened here.”
“There will be many more world championships and she will come back stronger the next time and should win the title in the coming years,” he added.
On her part, Sindhu is definitely prepared for many more such slug-fests if those would get her hands around that elusive gold medal that has slipped away not once but twice in two years.