Reigning World Champion PV Sindhu had no answers to the reigning Olympic Champion Carolina Marin as the Indian finished a distant second best at the Swiss Open final in Basel on Sunday.
The red-hot Spaniard who has been near unstoppable in 2021 won a lop-sided women’s singles title clash to make it three titles in four tournaments so far at the start of the year.
The 25-year-old Indian, who had won the coveted World Championship gold medal at the same venue in 2019, could not quite match up to the speed and accuracy of Marin during her 12-21, 5-21 defeat in the final that lasted 35 minutes.
It was Sindhu’s third successive loss to Marin, who had won both the Super 1000 events in Thailand in January before finishing runners-up at the BWF World Tour Finals, losing to Tai Tzu Ying in the final.
Playing her first final in 18 months (also in Basel, back in 2019), world No 7 Sindhu entered the match with a 5-8 head-to-head record against Marin, having lost her last two matches against the former world no 1.
Marin was always going to start the match as favourite but given the fact that she was pushed to three games in the semi-final by Thai youngster Pornpawee Chochuwong on Saturday, might have given Sindhu hope for a closer battle. In fact, the Indian had not dropped a game in the last four matches this week, beating the fourth and fifth seeds in the process.
However, Sindhu could not get her ‘A’ game going under pressure as Marin came up trumps to claim her third title of the year. Marin, the current world no 3, had also defeated Sindhu in the final of the Rio Olympics in 2016 as well as the 2018 World Championship final.
The opening game was a close battle in the early stages with Sindhu able to engage Marin in long rallies. At 6-6 and 7-8, she kept the Spaniard within touching distance. But once Marin came back from the interval at 11-8, there was no stopping her. She started to dominate the front-court and gave no room for Sindhu by targetting her body with smashes and pushes. That forced Sindhu on the backfoot and made her tentative for the rest of the match.
The Indian simply could not find a way to push Marin to the backcourt consistently enough as her lifts kept landing short. And as a result, the tempo was set by Marin who kept up her relentlessness during and between points to keep Sindhu pegged back. Marin was especially severe on Sindhu’s backhand side. It showed in the final result as Sindhu did not more than one point on the trot in the second game, losing it 5-21. It was the biggest margin in a game in the 14 matches involving these two players.
Sindhu will next compete at the $850,000 All England Championships, a Super 1000 event to be held from March 17 to 21.
(with PTI inputs)