PV Sindhu became the first Indian badminton player to be crowned world champion when she outclassed former champion Nozomi Okuhara 21-7, 21-7 in just 38 minutes to clinch the women’s singles title at the 2019 BWF World Championships in Basel, Switzerland, on Sunday.
The 24-year-old, who had been on the wrong end of the result in two consecutive finals before this, was head and shoulders above Okuhara at St Jakobshalle arena as she equalled Chinese star Zhang Ning’s record of five world championship women’s singles medals, and one of each colour. Both have now won one gold, two silver and two bronze but the Indian has managed to achieve this tally in just six appearances in the prestigious tournament.
Having fought back from the brink in the quarter-finals against world No 2 Tai Tzu Ying, Sindhu had set up a rematch of the 2017 epic final against Okuhara with a domineering performance against Chen Yufei of China and the only question in every badminton fan’s mind was whether the world No 5 could bring the same ‘A-game’ to the final.
She not only brought her ‘A-game’ but played like an athlete in the zone of invincibility as she outclassed and overpowered the fleet-footed Okuhara.
The match began with a 22-shot rally with Okuhara drawing first blood as Sindhu made an error at the net. Here we go again, one thought. Sign of things to come, one thought. One would be proved very wrong.
That was the only positive for the Japanese in the opening game as the Indian cranked up the pace and out-muscled her opponent, pushing her to all the corners of the court before unleashing those booming smashes to score points.
And when Okuhara managed to return any of them, Sindhu was quick to race to the net and tap them for a winner.
Sindhu won eight straight points twice – first to take a 8-1 lead and then to extend it to 16-2 – and only when she slightly lifted the foot on the gas did Okuhara managed to win a couple of points to give some respectability to the scoreline.
The Japanese then tried to push the pace of the rallies in the second game with an hope to catch her opponent unawares. But Sindhu was not just alert to the threat but was strong enough to counter that game plan and, every step of the way, outpaced Okuhara.
Sindhu stitched together a spell of six straight points to take a 9-2 lead and then bagged seven of the next nine points to increase the gap to 16-4 and it was clear that this was a point of no- return for Okuhara; who at one point went down on her knees on the court and looked forlorn.
Sindhu finally wrapped up the match with a down-the-line smash which Okuhara only managed to push into the net and ended the country’s wait for a gold medal since the start of the world championships in 1977.
After thanking her coaches Kim Ji Hyun and Pullela Gopichand, Sindhu later dedicated the title triumph to her mother Vijaya, who was celebrating her birthday on Sunday.
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