No pressure going in as defending champ at Worlds: Sindhu

  • India's only badminton world champion will have to surmount the challenge posed by rivals Pornpawee Chochuwong, who beat Sindhu last week, and world No.1 Tai Tzu Ying, who has a 14-5 record against the Hyderabadi
India shuttler PV Sindhu. (Getty) PREMIUM
India shuttler PV Sindhu. (Getty)
Updated on Dec 10, 2021 05:58 PM IST
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By, New Delhi

She may not be winning competitions regularly but when it comes to the majors, PV Sindhu transforms into a winning machine. It's like she needs the big stage to flip a switch in her mind; the 26-year-old has won medals at both the Olympics she has played, 2016 Rio and 2020 Tokyo and at five of the six World Championships she has participated in.

She had gone into the 2019 World Championships seeded fifth, before scything through the field to become India's first and only badminton world champion. She will go into the 2021 World Championship in Huelva, Spain, as the defending champion and certainly a favourite to retain the title. The World Championship begins on December 12 and ends on December 19.

Currently in Huelva, the Hyderabadi, seeded sixth, has a first-round bye and will face the winner between Slovak Martina Repsika and Indonesian Ruselli Hartawan in the second round at the Palacio de los Deportes Carolina Marin, named after her Spanish rival and friend, who on Friday pulled out of the event after failing to regain fitness following a knee injury.

In an interview, Sindhu discusses her draw at the World Championships, the 2021 season and winning the bronze at Tokyo. Excerpts:

Two semis and one final in Bali; are you satisfied with your performance in the last three weeks?

Well obviously I wanted to win all three tournaments (Indonesia Open, Indonesia Masters, BWF World Tour Finals) but yeah in the three weeks that have passed by I would say I have done well. I made a couple of mistakes where I should have changed a bit. But I learnt from the errors and came back stronger every week, in every tournament. Reaching the final of the World Tour Finals was a progress. I am happy with it (my performances) but it definitely would have been good if I could have changed the result of the final, if I would have won it. Right now I have to stay positive, take the positives from Bali and learn from my mistakes. So keeping that positivity in mind, I am looking forward to the World Championships.

You were losing in the semis since the All England Open in March but finally broke that barrier by reaching the final of the World Tour Finals…

I never had that in my mind. When you reach the semi-finals you want to play the final. But yes a lot of people kept telling, asking or reminding me that I am losing in the semis again and again. I was able to finally break that and played the finals. So not thinking much about it. It never played on my mind when I was playing the tournaments.

Is there any unusual pressure going in to defend your title at the World Championships?

There is no pressure. I just want to play my game and give my best. That’s how I won in 2019. Yes I am the defending champion but it is just about who plays well and gives their best on that day, that person is the winner.

What do you think of the draw? You could face Pornpawee Chochuwong in Round 3 and Tai Tzu Ying in quarter-finals…

At the World Championships, every point, game, match and round is very important. I will take one match at a time.

Tai Tzu has not played since the Tokyo Olympics. You, on the other hand, have match practice, having played back-to-back tournaments. Will it act as an advantage for you?

I would not say it’ll be an advantage or that she has a disadvantage; nothing like that. I am sure she has trained and practiced hard. Everyone is going to have their own strategies and game plans. So, it’ll be the same. It just depends on that particular day, that’s what matters. Sometimes you play brilliantly; sometimes you might make too many errors, so you can’t change anything about it.

No titles but two finals and multiple semi-finals. How would you sum up your 2021 season?

I have been playing well. There have been ups and downs but I have been learning a lot from that, learning from my mistakes. Everybody wants to give their 100 percent. I would want to win every match but sometimes it might not be your day. I can only do my best. But so far the season has been good. Getting a bronze at the Olympics is not easy so I am definitely happy with it and I would want to finish off the year with another medal so hoping for the best to happen.

The 2022 season is starting early with three consecutive tournaments in India. Will you play in all of them?

I will see and discuss with my coach. It is important you are at your 100 percent form in every tournament. So we will plan accordingly and pick and choose what tournaments to play and what not to.

2022 will be busy. Apart from the regular BWF tournaments you will also have the Commonwealth and Asian Games. You won silver at both in 2018.

Yeah 2022 is definitely going to be a busy year. We will plan because you also have to be injury free, make sure you are mentally and physically fit. But one step at a time. Right now I hope I do well at the World Championships. I will think about the other tournaments later.

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    From badminton to cricket, Sandip Sikdar writes on many sporting disciplines. He has the experience of working in digital, news agency as well as print organisations. Motorsport remains his first love.

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Tuesday, May 17, 2022