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PV Sindhu eyes world championship gold after entering 3rd successive final

The Indian Express logo The Indian Express 25-08-2019 Shivani Naik
a person that is standing in the dark: BWF World Championships 2019: BWF World Championships 2019: © Provided by IE Online Media Services Pvt Ltd BWF World Championships 2019: BWF World Championships 2019:

You could be forgiven for thinking 2018, when Carolina Marin got stuck into her in the World Championship finals, never happened. For such is the allure of PV Sindhu’s 2017 World’s loss in a titanic final to Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara. That 73-shot rally at Glasgow, the match nearing 2 hours, that breathless retrieving, the wafer-thin scoreline deficit, Okuhara’s arching back, Sindhu’s desperate forecourt lunges and that doomed net tap; by the time Sindhu had her revenge at Korea a month later with a 56-shot rally stitched in, Indians were trained in swooning over these opera-level tragedies.

The duo is back at Basel’s 2019 World Championship final, for Season 2 of this epic drama, with all of India neck-deep in love with badminton’s iconic women’s singles rivalry. The country’s seldom had an athlete as dominant as Sindhu at the topmost levels of racquet sports. That she keeps missing gold in finals, has nevertheless kept Indians parched and hungry for a title victory.

Some reckon that if Sindhu can keep the unforced errors in check and keep the pace at which she’s been playing this week, the title is her’s for the taking. Sure there will be a point after every four or five in spurts, where Okuhara will try breaking the momentum and drag Sindhu into a stretched slugfest.But just look at Sindhu’s defense on a smash to her backhand and how she swats it away cross or the poise with which she pushes calmly at the net, and you’ll know 2019 ain’t 2017. Okuhara’s retreat into defensive battles might be hard to sustain this time around. Sindhu decimated Chinese Chen Yufei 21-eye-popping-7, 21-14 in 40 minutes in the semis. The Japanese former champ rallied from a set down to beat Intanon Ratchanok in 3.

Expect her to play the length game and snatch extra time on returns, and also expect Sindhu to negotiate it clinically in straight sets by pushing the pace to stymie Nozomi.

She’s playing amazingly freely and bossed the Chinese Yufei with an all-court rampage. Still, 15-all in a decider is where Indians will begin biting their nails, and hope she can relax, use every legal delaying tactic to gain that extra half a second to calm her nerves for the elusive last two points that eluded her in Glasgow. Finals are finals and unless Sindhu blasts her way out out of trouble, she’ll need to remember Nozomi is Nozomi. A Japanese not easily intimidated with her own rituals and sense of zen and time, who came out of a stiff semi after staring down the barrel.While Sindhu might go in as favourite (she had in 2017 too), the Indian will need to be armed with a Plan B for 15-all, should the bulldozing not flatten Nozomi. In the semis, Sindhu reckoned she was well prepared and while she maintained the lead at all times, even the few unforced errors could be shrugged off because of the confidence of the lead. Scoreboard pressure though, can do funny things. She said all the right things.

"It’s very important to keep yourself focussed because it’s not yet over for me. I’m happy but I’m not satisfied yet. There is one more match to go. I definitely want to get the gold for sure. But it’s not going to be easy. I have to focus very much and be very much patient. And give my best in the final."

It’s her SOP, at all times, even extraordinary ones like a third World Championship final. Coach Gopichand sets a lot of store on being physically in top shape if you want to last the psychological wringers and mental hits. It’s what they fell back on post 2017. It’s important for you to have a good preparation and feel good when you get in physically. I think a lot of times you will forget what has happened in the past. Much of what you feel as negativity or bad thinking post the match can be gone if you prepare well next time around. That’s something we’ve done consistently with Sindhu. Whenever she has lost over the years we went back and worked on our mistakes and that helps her to regain confidence," he says adding it’s heartening to see her perform consistently at biggest stages.

In better shape

2017 he insists was a tough final to lose especially with the kind of expectations Sindhu had going in for the first time. Sindhu really wanted to win. But having had the experience of playing a few more finals this time, she will be in better shape. Also the fact that she goes into the finals with relatively easier rounds while last time around Sindhu had to really struggle with long matches till quarters and semis and get to the finals. It’s good to be physically rested a bit more than what she was last time, he adds.

He doesn’t discount nerves and memories of past losses meddling and muddling her mind. Because the venue is pretty similar, conditions seem very similar. But Sindhu seems better prepared. And the last time she’s played Okuhara she beat her pretty convincingly, he stresses.

Overall, Team Sindhu have tried to keep it normal and real, avoid all hysterics. On court instructions need to be very precise and clear. And she will do it. That’s helped. Outside of the court she has enough energy. I haven’t seen very many people with that kind of energy to keep working and keep doing a bunch of other stuff. When she’s with people she loves it, when she’s shopping she loves it. She’s got a lot of energy outside of the court.I see a lot of athletes who will be tired after a session. But if you tell Sindhu after a session let’s go out and she’ll be ready immediately.Very different, very social, very warm. So that’s really helped to keep things very positive," he adds

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