'Calendar really tough for players': Sindhu finds support from Marin as star shuttler endures shock India Open exit
PV Sindhu found support from long-time rival Carolina Marin as the star shuttler was knocked out in the first round again, this time at the India Open.
India badminton superstar PV Sindhu’s comeback from a five-month injury layoff hasn’t gone to plan so far. After facing a first-round defeat to Spain’s former World No.1 Carolina Marin at the Malaysia Open, Sindhu faced another opening-round ouster at the home tournament, the India Open on Tuesday. Facing unseeded Thailand shuttler Supanida Katethong, Sindhu struggled with her movement in slow conditions at the KD Jadhav Indoor Hall in New Delhi, losing 14-21, 20-22.
The top-ranked women’s shuttler from India had a disastrous start to the match and her coach, Park Tae-Sang was visibly concerned as instructions followed with exaggerated gestures after each passing point. Trailing 4-11 at mid-game break in the first game, Sindhu recovered well but the gap was too big to bridge. The Indian shuttler played a significantly better second game and even had a game point at 20-16; however, Supanida kept her nerves as her coach, Kim Ji-Hyun – who has worked with Sindhu in the past – asserted her student to keep attacking the Indian shuttler near the net; a tactic that worked remarkably well.
While Sindhu’s comeback leaves a lot to be desired, one player who continues to assert dominance after twin-injury setbacks is Spain’s Marin. An Olympic champion from 2016, Marin faced two long term ACL injuries but returned strongly after each, and on Tuesday, cruised to a straight-game win over Japan’s top-shuttler Nozomi Okuhara.
So, what’s Marin doing differently?
"You have to change many things. I used to practice many hours but now, the quality of the time is very important,” Marin said following her win against the Japanese Okuhara.
"Every injury is difficult to be back. I don't think any player can still play when they have two serious injuries like I had. But I wanted to give something back. I couldn't just sit back. I had won a gold medal at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, and right now, I'm looking forward to playing in Paris. I just look forward to keep improving myself, and I don't fear any opponent,” she said.
Marin and Sindhu had met last week at the Malaysia Open, and when Hindustan Times asked the Spaniard if she had a word of advice for Sindhu as the latter makes a comeback, the Spaniard insisted that injuries can be “good” in certain times as they allow one to spend time with oneself.
"I couldn't make time to talk to Sindhu about the injury but five months is tough to be away. The first injury I had was for seven-and-a-half months, and the second was more than a year. So, I don't think five months is too much (laughs). Sometimes, a calendar for a badminton player is really tough. So, to be away for five months is good for you mentally because you stay at home, you can be at your family. You have time to improve, so that's what I found to be a positive during my recovery process,” Marin said.
Love playing in India
Okuhara received a big applause from the Indian fans when she entered the area at the KD Jadhav Indoor Hall, but as soon as Marin made her entrance, it was as if she were a local favourite in New Delhi. The fans continued to chant her name after every point, and the love from the crowd hasn’t gone unnoticed for Marin.
"I love when they support me. It feels great when you get into the court and get the crowd support. I love to play here in India, I've fans here and I love them. I feel there's a good connection and I'm grateful for that,” Marin said.
The Spain tennis star faces another tough challenge in the second round at India Open, as she meets Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon for a place in the quarters.
What’s next for Sindhu?
While neither Sindhu nor her coach Park Tae-Sang spoke to media following the loss, Sindhu had earlier told Hindustan Times that the duo isn’t setting long-term targets following the return to injury.
“I feel we need to take one match at a time. We need to be happy that we actually attempted to play after an injury. By god’s grace, I hope everything will be fine and there will be good days,” Sindhu had said ahead of her tie against Supanida.