Two World Championship bronze medals, a singles bronze from the Glasgow Commonwealth Games, two Uber Cup team bronzes and a consistent top-15 ranking had fans know of PV Sindhu’s abilities on the badminton court. But an Olympic silver medal in her maiden Games in Rio has catapulted the 21-year-old from Hyderabad to nation-wide fame and stardom.
Sindhu’s journey hasn’t been easy. Born into a family of athletes (her father PV Ramana and mother P Vijaya are former professional volleyball players), sports came naturally to the tall shuttler. Inspired by Pullela Gopichand’s exploits on court, Sindhu took up badminton at the age of 8. Taking to it like a fish to water, Sindhu clinched victories in the U-10 category soon.
After a spate triumphs in the under-13 age group, she joined Gopichand’s academy in 2008, situated in Gachibowli, the far end of Hyderabad city. Initially, Sindhu’s Arjuna Awardee father would brave a 50km ride from their home to the academy early morning for practice sessions and back. The single-minded dedication and determination of the aspiring shuttler impressed Gopichand immensely.
Bronze in the 2009 Sub-Junior Asian Championships, quarters of the Junior World Championships a year later and then gold in the 2011 Commonwealth Youth Games had the lanky Sindhu steadily progressing in the ranks. In fact, she was given a place on the 2010 Uber Cup team, where India lost in the quarters to China. The then-17-year-old took a giant step in her career when she became the first Indian to win the prestigious Badminton Asia Youth U-19 championship in Korea in 2012. She had beaten Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara to clinch the title, the same opponent she beat in Rio in the semifinals assuring the country of a silver.
Though her first International Challenge title came back in 2011, she joined the big league winning her maiden Grand Prix gold tournament in Malaysia two years later. 2013 proved a brilliant year for the youngster when she beat China’s wily Wang Shixian to become the first Indian woman to win a singles bronze in the World Championships. In 2011, the doubles pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa had clinched bronze in the event, the first Indians to do so. The year ended winning the Macau Open GP gold title and the government awarding her the Arjuna for her on court exploits.
Rising steadily up the ranking charts, she broke into the top 20 in 2012 and has maintained her place since. A Glasgow Commonwealth bronze in 2014 and a second World Championship bronze was a huge boom. She’s the only Indian to have two back-to-back medals from the prestigious tournament so far. Though she had consistent good showings in 2014, her only title win came in Macau, once again. With the Indian team, she added Asian Games and Uber Cup bronze medals to her resume as well.
After battling with a stress fracture on the left foot last year, she reached her maiden Super Series final in Denmark, bowing out unfortunately to London gold medallist Li Xuerui. But her run in Macau continued, ending the year with her third consecutive win in the tournament. Though she began 2016 with the Malaysian Masters title, before Rio, she made five quarterfinal appearances.
Sindhu is known to raise her game when it matters and her new-developed aggression has already proved its effectiveness in Rio. A different player than before, she’s become more focused and accurate. Following a strict exercise regime and diet, Sindhu is eager to raise her game to improve her ranking. Currently 10, she wants to better her career-best of nine as soon as possible.