PV Sindhu: The complete fighter
Was there ever a doubt that PV Sindhu would win a world championship? This is a player who first made the semis of the world championship as an 18-year-old. Then again as a 19-year-old. At 21, she made the final at the Olympics. At 22, she was in the final of the world championship. Last year, she made it two finals in a row at badminton’s biggest event.
By any measure, that is a remarkably consistent run at the very top echelons of the game. It was only a matter of time before she won. It turned out to be this time, right now, at her third straight final at the worlds. She strode on to court—almost six feet of pure lean muscle (ever wondered if she would have made a superb track athlete? Got India a gold at the 400m hurdles?)—and owned the court like she has never done before. She has always had the game. When she felt, three years back, that she needed a more aggressive mentality on court, she worked on it, famously adding an unfettered scream to her arsenal. At this world championship, she showed that she has unlocked something else: that elusive ability to make her game work for her, no matter the situation she finds herself in. The most strikingly visible aspect of her final was the rapid and relentless artillery fire she unleashed—those 350 kph smashes that left her opponent, Japan’s Nozumi Okuhara, shell-shocked. But look carefully, look again; look at that easy, almost casual backhand defence with which she picked up Okuhara’s smashes. Look at the rare long rally—the kind that suits Okuhara’s game—and how it was Sindhu who controlled it, Sindhu who chose the pace of it, the placing of the shots. Look at the deception of her drop shots, that serve she picked out with an exquisitely delicate flick of the wrist to send the shuttle back at the tightest of angles across the net.
Sindhu likes the short, explosive power game, but she was not restricted by it. When needed, as she did in the quarter-finals, she showed she could survive the long, patient battle of tactically placed shots. When she could, as she could in the semi-final and the final, she landed the knock-out punch without being held back by any self-doubt. Sindhu has become the complete fighter. With the Olympics less than a year away, there can be no better news for Indian badminton.
Now if only the people who run the game would sit up and take notice of what national coach Pullela Gopichand has to say: that Indian badminton needs more coaches, more world-class training centres, more attention at every level of the sport; from the grassroots all the way to the support-system that top players need. The management of a sport is something India almost never does well. Badminton, riding on the success of players such as Sindhu, has the perfect opportunity to change that story.