The World Championships is where she made her name. The World Championships is where he showed her big-game mentality. The World Championships is where she made her international breakthrough, winning bronze in her first and second appearances.
And it was fitting that PV Sindhu produced arguably her greatest performance at the World Championships.
On August 25 2019, Sindhu (not for the first time in her career) went where no Indian shuttler had gone before. She became the first Indian shuttler to be crowned world champion.
After her Rio 2016 silver, Sindhu had come close in 2017 and 2018 to becoming the world champion. In Glasgow, in a final that deserved no loser, she was second best to Nozomi Okuhara in a match that will be remembered for ages. In Nanjing, Carolina Marin was simply too good on the day of the final.
Third time was the charm for Sindhu, as she turned up big time in Basel. And how.
Despite not being in the best of form before the tournament, Sindhu dominated Pai Yu Po and Beiwen Zhang in her first two matches. Then came the superb turnaround against Tai Tzu Ying in the quarter-finals. Sindhu assured herself a fifth World Championship medal in six appearances with a semi-final berth, but she looked down and out in the opening game and was playing catch up in the first half of the second. She turned her fortunes around, though, to upset favourite Tai Tzu Ying 12-21, 23-21, 21-19 in 71 minutes of pulsating badminton.
Those were the first signs that something was special unfolding in Basel.
In the semi-final, it was a Chinese opponent in Chen Yufei. And Sindhu kept up her sensational record of not losing to a Chinese shuttler at the Worlds as she gave Chen Yufei a lesson in aggressive badminton with a 21-7, 21-14 semi-final win in just 40 minutes.
She was priming herself to deliver at the big stage.
And she did that and then some.
No one could have predicted what they witnessed on the day of the final in Basel. That Sunday, Sindhu was in a zone elite athletes only dream to achieve in their careers. She could not put a foot wrong if she wanted to. A final that, in sharp contrast to the marathon on 2017, was the equivalent of a 200m sprint: two sensationally short games that saw the Indian defeat her familiar rival Okuhara in just 37 minutes.
The scoreline is still scarcely believable: 21-7, 21-7.
For someone who looks at that result years down the line, the first question would be: ‘was Okuhara injured? How on earth is that scoreline even possible otherwise?’ In reality, she was just blown away by a super aggressive Sindhu.
For coach Pullela Gopichand, the way Sindhu won the title made the occasion all the more special.
“I think, for me, this victory is big. I think ‘World Champion’ is a big thing. To actually win it the way she has makes it even better. Doubly proud. It draws a lot of respect from people across the world and definitely for us as a country... we have seen bronze, we have seen silver and its great to see the gold,” he had told Scroll.in from Basel.
“You need to aspire for more but once you get the result I think its time to celebrate whatever it is and start looking forward to the next one. I think this is a great victory, not only for Sindhu but for all of us who worked hard. We had won bronzes and the silvers but the question mark was when is the gold coming. For that reason at least, for that box to be ticked... this gold was important,” he had added.
Indians who have won medal at badminton Worlds
|1983||Copenhagen||Prakash Padukone (bronze)|
|2011||London||Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa (bronze)|
|2013||Guangzhou||PV Sindhu (bronze)|
|2014||Copenhagen||PV Sindhu (bronze)|
|2015||Jakarta||Saina Nehwal (silver)|
|2017||Glasgow||Saina Nehwal (bronze)|
|2017||Glasgow||PV Sindhu (silver)|
|2018||Nanjing||PV Sindhu (silver)|
|2019||Basel||Sai Praneeth (bronze)|
|2019||Basel||PV Sindhu (gold)|
“This is my answer to the people who have asked me questions over and over. I just wanted to answer with my racquet and with this win – that’s all,” Sindhu said after the final.
“I felt really bad after the first World Championships final and last year I was angry, I was sad. I went through all my emotions, asking ‘Sindhu, why can’t you get this one match?’ but today came and I told myself to play my game and not worry - and it worked out,” she added.
Indeed, for a 24-year-old to be world champion is a tremendous feat but the way she got there made it even more incredible. She answered some of the questions that were thrown at her (some merited, most ridiculous) in some style. In her style.
You can watch the highlights of the final here: