The Korean who turned around PV Sindhu’s fortunes
The first person PV Sindhu chose to thank after becoming world champion was her Korean coach Kim Ji-hyun. “I want to thank Ms Kim and Gopi Sir and my parents,” Sindhu said in the courtside interview. She had wrapped up the final against Nozomi Okuhara in just 38 minutes. In 2017, Sindhu had played her heart out against Okuhara, in a titanic clash that lasted one hour and 50 minutes. Unlike that final which was full of extended rallies, Sindhu’s game was in total contrast on Sunday.
The 24-year-old was at her dominating best. She kept the points short and brought out her smashes from all corners of the court. Sindhu was fast and moved like she owned the arena. It was all about attack, which is Sindhu’s natural game and something which gives her an edge over retrievers like Okuhara or her Japanese counterpart Akane Yamaguchi. In the past, Sindhu had tried to match them in retrieving, but met with limited success.
Kim, the 1994 Hiroshima Asian Games gold medallist who has coached the likes of Sung Ji-hyun, was appointed coach in April. She was asked to take the responsibility of guiding Sindhu and Saina Nehwal. The Korean immediately brought changes in Sindhu’s game by working on her net game and making her play to her strengths.
Pullela Gopichand, the chief national coach, has spoken about having his hands full as he needs to follow the progress of many players. And bringing Kim on board has paid huge dividends.
“At the top level, you have to be smart. It has to be a combination, like your technique, hitting and mentality. We’re working on net skills, deception and changing tactics as you can’t use the same tactics over and over again,” Kim was quoted as saying in the BWF website during the world championships.
After the Rio Olympics, Sindhu has been reaching the finals of major events only to end up second best. But at the World Championships, it was a different Sindhu on show. Except for the skilful and deceptive Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei against whom Sindhu had to dig deep for 71 minutes to ensure victory in the quarters, all others were ruthlessly dominated by her. No other match went that far because Sindhu wanted to dictate the pace, and not get caught in rallies. Switch to the last couple of years, and Sindhu’s matches were all going beyond the hour mark.
Kim had special sessions in the afternoon with Sindhu alone, to work on her wristy shots. She made Sindhu mix her shots and keep the opponent on her toes. She was quietly trying to bring back the old Sindhu and make her play tactically.
“She was just so dominant and completely outclassed Okuhara. She was unplayable in most of the matches. The way she was moving, she was very confident and her approach to the net was really good. She was really pushing the shuttle to the back of the court and kept Okuhara guessing. She never gave Okuhara the rhythm. Sindhu was also fast and used the conditions inside the court well,” said former player and chief coach, Vimal Kumar.