PV Sindhu has promised to give it her all to fulfil her motive of ending the 2017 season on a high when she takes on Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi in the summit clash of the Dubai World Superseries Finals. Sindhu has won two Superseries tournaments this year – in India and Korea – but now has the chance to add the icing on the cake with a Finals triumph.
“This is the motive I had come with to Dubai and it feels nice to have achieved the first step by making it to the final,” Sindhu told Gulf News after beating Chen Yufei in the semi-finals on Saturday.
“It is one last match tomorrow and you can be sure I will give it everything I have to end my season on a real high. It has been a great 2017 so far, but winning this one will make it even bigger and better,” she added.
Whatever happens on Sunday, it won’t take away from the year Sindhu has had, in which she reached four major finals prior to Dubai. In two of those finals, she played marathon matches against another Japanese, Nozomi Okuhara, which are sure to go down in history as one of the best ever title clashes.
Here’s looking back at all those four finals.
1. India Superseries: Rio revenge
There was not an empty seat left in the Siri Fort complex in New Delhi on that Sunday afternoon in April. The stands were packed at around 3 pm, well in advance of the title clash. The walkways were filled with people squatting, closer to the final. Even the standing area behind the last row of seats on the upper-most tier was not spared. With a couple of hours still to go before the women’s singles final, there was not an inch left to occupy.
It was PV Sindhu vs Carolina Marin after all.
In a match that was billed as Sindhu’s quest for revenge for the defeat in the final of Rio Olympics, the Indian and the Spaniard even wore the exact same outfit to add to the build-up. As it unfolded, Sindhu fought past Marin 21-19, 21-16 in a match that lasted 49 minutes. The rapturous crowd was treated to some fantastic badminton, and at the end, Sindhu was the one smiling.
Also, at the end of a year where women’s singles in badminton once again proved to be a fascinatingly open contest, Sindhu’s first title will be the answer to an interesting trivia – her win in New Delhi is the only Superseries event where the title was won by the local favourite.
2. World Championships: An all-time classic
A gladiatorial battle in Glasgow. It feels as if it happened yesterday. The women’s singles final of the BWF World Championships will go down as one of the greatest badminton matches of all time, gender be damned. It was a night that transcended the sport, as two young women fought tooth and nail to be crowned the World Champion. The result – Okuhara won 19-21, 22-20, 20-22 in a match that lasted 10 minutes fewer than two hours – was immaterial, ultimately. It was a night where, pardon the cliche, badminton was the real winner.
Watching that final unfold at the Emirates Arena in Glasgow, The Field’s correspondent Abhijeet Kulkarni wrote:
“For those who look at sport from the prism of win-loss statistics alone, the footnote at the end of the 110-minute epic would be yet another data entry that can be pulled out every time any discussion veers towards India’s BWF World Championship record.
For all others who were at the Emirates Arena on Sunday to watch the women’s singles final between Sindhu and eventual champion Nozomi Okuhara, it was such a draining experience that there was a complete silence in the stadium for the split second when the Indian went down on her knees to pick up a drop and the shuttle ended in the net.”
Words couldn’t possibly do justice to that game but, in his column for The Field, aptly titled ‘When the irresistible Indian met the indomitable Japanese,’ Prem Panicker beautifully summed it up:
What we witnessed on Sunday has the feel of unfinished business between these two; the Illiad is over, but the Odyssey is yet to come. For an afterword to this epic, turn again to Simon Barnes and what he wrote of what such supremely gifted sportspersons bequeath to us: “Fans, disbelieving of what they had just seen, and beatific that they were alive and awake and watching as boundaries were stretched and ‘impossible’ was redefined.” It was that kind of a night.
And we are not tired of watching this 73-shot rally from that match. We are sure you wouldn’t be either.
3. Korea Superseries: Another epic with Okuhara
Just three weeks after that unforgettable match against Okuhara in Glasgow, Sindhu had a chance to reverse the result against the Japanese in a title-deciding match. It went to three games yet again but the result was reversed this time around as Sindhu triumphed. The world No 4 avenged her three-game defeat to the Japanese in the final of the world championships at the end of August, by beating her in as many games in the summit clash of the Korea Open Superseries. Sindhu won 22-20, 11-21, 21-18 in a match that lasted an hour and 23 minutes.
It did not reach the improbable heights of that famous night in Glasgow, but it was still a scintillating encounter as Sindhu and Okuhara traded blows in another breathtaking display of gritty badminton.
“Each of these matches are important and Okuhara is a great fighter and sportsperson. Sindhu, likewise, has been a great competitor as well,” coach P Gopichand had told The Field after that match. “I think people termed it as a revenge match [before the final] but if you ask me it wasn’t. But it was important for Sindhu’s confidence to win after the kind of loss she had in the world championships final.”
While the Glasgow final had that 73-shot rally, the final in Korea saw an equally enthralling 56-shot rally that ended in Sindhu’s favour in the decider.
And here’s that memorable point for you to relive:
4. Hong Kong Superseries: Fighting defeat against the world’s best
Sindhu’s quest to defeat Tai Tzu Ying, the best female shuttler of the year, failed for a second consecutive in the final of the Hong Kong open in November. Despite playing her fifth tournament in a row, Sindhu never lacked in fitness and fought throughout the match but eventually went down fighting 18-21, 18-21 to the defending champion in a 44-minute women’s singles final.
Her run to the final in Hong Kong, coming after a disappointing defeat in the Nationals and five Superseries events since her win in Korea, proved to be the perfect confidence-boost ahead of the year-end Dubai Superseries Finals. Defeating the in-form Yamaguchi in the quarter-final and Ratchanok Intanon in the semi-final showed Sindhu had the belief in her abilities to put together a successful run in Dubai, with questions beginning to arise over form and fitness at the end of a sapping year.
While the Superseries events are the yardstick to measure success on the badminton circuit, Sindhu enjoyed a fine year otherwise too. It started with her title-winning run in the Premier Badminton League, where she led Chennai Smashers to lift the trophy. She followed that up by lifting the Syed Modi International in Lucknow, making it a fine start to 2017.
In November, she reached the final of the Senior National Badminton Championships too, where she lost in a thrilling final against Saina Nehwal.
Including these three events, Sindhu has played in seven finals this year, winning four of them.
A fifth win in Dubai against Yamaguchi does not make or break her year, but it’ll be the icing on an already-delicious cake.