PV Sindhu needs no introduction to Indian sports fans. Since international badminton is cancelled for the time being and the Tokyo Olympics have been postponed due to the COVID19 outbreak, here’s a look back at the five biggest matches of Sindhu’s career.
Fans of Saina Nehwal can read up on her biggest matches here.
2013 World Championship Quarterfinals vs Wang Shixian
In 2012, the same year that Saina Nehwal won her Olympic Bronze, 17-year old PV Sindhu announced herself on the circuit by winning the WS Gold at the Asian Junior Championships. The future was said to be bright for the teenager from Hyderabad. But few could have predicted that she would make a mark internationally as soon as at the following year’s World Championships.
In the 2013 Worlds, she beat higher-seeded Chinese shuttler Wang Shixian 21–18, 21–17 in the quarters to become the first Indian singles player after Prakash Padukone to win a World Championship medal. This feat had eluded even Saina till then. In the 2nd Round she had also beaten Saina’s nemesis and defending champion Wang Yihan. Though she lost in the semis and had to be content with a Bronze, clearly the next big thing from Indian badminton had arrived.
2016 Olympics Quarterfinals vs Wang Yihan
Saina Nehwal had made a disastrous first-round exit at Rio 2016 after suffering an injury, while the news from the rest of the Indian Olympic contingent too wasn’t heartening. Against this background, Sindhu played one of the most inspired matches of her career. Her opponent was London 2012 Silver medalist Wang Yihan. The top Chinese shuttler had no answer to the smashes sent by the tall Indian. Sindhu won the tough encounter in straight games 22-20, 21-19, enhancing her reputation as China’s nemesis and becoming a household name in India.
She would later go on to thrash Nozomi Okuhara in the semis and confirm at least a Silver, a news that came much to the relief of Indian supporters. Though she lost in a tense 3-game match to Carolina Marin in the finals, she was well on her way to superstardom.
2017 India Open Final vs Carolina Marin
After the 2016 Olympics, apart from Sindhu even Carolina Marin became a well-known name in India. Naturally any future match between the two would be labelled a ‘revenge’ match for Sindhu by fans and the media alike. Sindhu’s chance to avenge her Rio 2016 loss came a few months later at the finals of the India Open Superseries in April 2017.
And Sindhu did get her revenge after beating the Spaniard in straight games 21-19, 21-16. Even though a Superseries tournament is not exactly the Olympics, what made it special for Sindhu was the fact that it was her first major title in front of her home crowd, and the second SS title of her career. The win would also propel her to a career-high World No.2 ranking.
2017 World Championship Final vs Nozomi Okuhara
Japan’s Nozomi Okahura beat Sindhu 19–21, 22–20, 20–22 in an epic 3-game match that is considered one of the best WS matches ever. The 110 minute match, the 2nd longest in WS history, saw both players pushed to the limits of their endurance. The two exchanged smashes, drop shots, drives, net shots, basically everything possible in a badminton game in a relentless physical and mental battle. Neither player was willing to give an inch to the other. Each and every point contested was a mini-event.
At one stage in the 3rd game Sindhu saw an opening while leading 19-17 but was unable to overcome the tight defensive game of the diminutive Japanese. Okuhara won the 3rd game (and the match) 22-20. Commentators were surprised to see the two players still able to stand in the end, such was the intensity of the match. Though Sindhu lost, her standing as one of the best players of the world remained very much intact.
2019 World Championship Final vs Nozomi Okuhara
The contrast between the two World Championship finals of 2017 and 2019 could not have been starker. After being out-rallied by Okuhara in 2017 and out-smashed by Marin in the 2018 finals, Sindhu finally managed to get rid of her ‘Silver Sindhu’ jinx by thrashing the Japanese 21-7, 21-7 in the finals of the 2019 edition. She thus became the first ever badminton World Champion from India.
The highlight of her 2019 campaign however was her quarters win over the deceptive Tai Tzu Ying. The confidence gained by beating the Taiwanese spurred her on to win over Yufei and Okuhara in easy straight-game matches.
The World Champion tag has raised Sindhu to the heights of stardom few Indian sportspersons outside of cricket have achieved. Her next big challenge will be the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and we as fans hope she can do one better than last time.