PV Sindhu finally broke the series of runner-up finishes to get the better of Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara 21-19, 21-17 to lift the BWF World Tour Finals crown and end the year on a high. In the men’s final, China’s Shi Yuqi stunned world number one Kento Momota 21-12, 21-11 in a surprisingly one-sided encounter.

Playing in the same arena where she won her first world championship medal back in 2013, Sindhu showed that she was a lot stronger physically and mentally to tackle any game plan of her opponent to become only the second women’s singles player to win a year-end tournament without winning anything else in the same calendar year since Wong Mew Choo achieved that feat in 2009.

The title triumph also made Sindhu the first Indian to win the year-end tournament.

Sindhu, who had lost seven consecutive finals overall (including Asian Games and CWG) since her Korea Open triumph in September last year, began the match on a confident note, picking quick points with her half smashes to take a 7-3 lead but Okuhara then began to flight the shuttle lot higher and engage the Indian in longer rallies.

The first long rally of the match — 44 shots — arrived at 8-5 and Sindhu showed the patience to stay in the rally, keeping the shuttle a lot higher for Okuhara to control the pace and forced her opponent into making a mistake.

The approach allowed Sindhu to open up a 14-6 lead before Okuhara began preying on Sindhu’s patience by raising the tempo of the rallies and using the sliced drop shots to make the Indian work hard for every point.

The 2017 world champion won 10 of the next 12 points to level the scores at 16-16 as she dominated the net exchanges.

But two unforced errors from the Japanese handed Sindhu three game points. And though she failed to convert the first two, it was yet another crosscourt half smash that gave the first game to the Indian.

The second game started on a similar note with Sindhu earning a few quick points as Okuhara made a few errors of judgement before the Japanese once again began clawing back by lengthening the rallies, similar to what she did in the 2017 World Championship final in Glasgow.

Sindhu, however, managed to take a two-point lead at the mid-game interval and though Okuhara managed to win most of the longer rallies the Japanese was also guilty of making a few uncharacteristic errors to allow the 23-year-old Indian some breathing space.

And it was one such lucky break at 17-16, when Okuhara’s racquet strings broke during a rally that gave Sindhu a two-point lead at the business end of the game and she made the most of it to clinch the match in 61 minutes.

Local boy wins

A mouthwatering showdown between the two top-ranked players in the world, was a re-run of the world championship decider in August.

On that occasion, the 22-year-old Shi – the new star of Chinese men’s badminton – was well beaten by Momota.

But roared on by the crowd in Guangzhou, Shi got revenge in emphatic fashion, beating the tournament favourite in straight games for the biggest win of his young career.