Hyderabad: PV Sindhu finally conquered the demons that had haunted her constantly in many of the big events. The 23-year-old thus broke the hoodoo of losing in the final. At the same time she avenged her 2017 World Championship defeat by outwitting Nozomi Okuhara of Japan 21-19, 21-17 in 62 minutes to clinch her first-ever BWF World Tour Finals title in Guangzhou (China) on Sunday.
Sindhu also became the first Indian to win this year-ending final after Saina Nehwal and the mixed doubles pair of Jwala Gutta and V Diju failed to do so having reached finals in 2011 and 2009 respectively.
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Sindhu had lost to Akane Yamaguchi in the Super Series Finals (now changed to World Tour) in a close three-game final in Dubai last year. But on Sunday, it was a different Sindhu. She was fit, disciplined, hungry, patient and had the fire to subdue the determined Japanese. In the end in this battle of attrition, Sindhu emerged champion.
Former chief national coach Syed Mohammad Arif said it was a great win for Sindhu.
“To beat Okuhara in her own game is remarkable. The Japanese is a rally game specialist. I’m so happy that Sindhu showed tons of patience and discipline while beating the Japanese. It is a huge win,” said Arif.
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Father PV Ramana said the hard work finally paid off for Sindhu. “It is a combination of hard work and luck. She was unlucky in many of the finals. But today, Sindhu was a very confident player. She, in fact, was unstoppable. The preparation to this tournament was done very meticulously. Coach Pullela Gopichand looked to the minutes of her game while the two Indonesian coaches Dwi and Rifan were rigorous in the training sessions. A lot of attention was given to her defence in the camp. Even the twice a week fitness sessions with Srikanth at Suchitra Academy helped Sindhu to be a very fit player,” said Ramana.
That Sindhu was more focused and hungry was evident in the first game itself. She jumped to a 7-3 lead as she got into a good rhythm. She forced Okuhara to make silly mistakes. Sindhu had five-point advantage at the break (11-6). She took control of the game by stretching it to 14-6 lead.
Though rattled, Okuhara, too, waited patiently to trap Sindhu. There were long rallies and Sindhu was caught napping on a few occasions. The Japanese began to put pressure on Sindhu, who began to hit wide and long. The game became tight and Okuhara closed the gap. At one stage, there was a 33-shot rally before the Japanese deceived Sindhu with a beautiful drop shot. Soon, it became 16-all. But Sindhu wrested back the lead. She won three points as Okuhara hit wide. Sindhu was at game point at 20-17, Okuhara managed to save two more points but the Indian closed the first game in 29 minutes.
The second game went in Sindhu’s favour at the start as she got a 5-2 lead. Okuhara was error-prone. But the Japanese changed her strategy and there were yet again long rallies. She got the right length and the shots came off nicely. The momentum seemed to shift. Suddenly, it was the turn of Sindhu to make mistakes. She began to push the shuttle wide or long. However, the Indian had a two-point advantage at the break (11-9).
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It was a cat-and-mouse game. The players became little tentative. Although Okuhara came close at 14-15, Sindhu, with a lovely drop shot, was ahead at 17-15. It was question of holding on the nerves and Okuhara succumbed to pressure as she served long at the vital stage of the game. Sindhu grabbed three crucial points and she went into 19-16 lead with a smash. The Japanese managed to win one more point. There was yet another long rally but Sindhu won that point and finished off the match with a delightful tap that caught Okuhara on the wrong foot.
There was quiet celebration, a simple wave to the crowd and then ran to greet his coaches (Gopichand and Siyadutt). This was first title for Sindhu since the Korean Open Super Series in September 2017 where beat Okuhara in the final.
Happy to see Sindhu breaking the final jinx: Gopi
After a year of disappointing results in badminton, coach Pullela Gopichand is finally happy that PV Sindhu had broken the final jinx. “I am happy she has broken that jinx and hopefully in coming years, she will win a lot more tournaments,” said Gopichand from Guangzhou.
The coach said it is definitely is a good end to the year. “And more importantly a good beginning to New Year. She will go with a lot of confidence. A lot of people were talking about losing in the final. She can silence her critics now.”
Gopichand said any match against Nozomi Okuhara would be a tight one. “I think with Okuhara you have to be prepared as she is a fighter. She had pulled off good matches in the past despite being down but at the same time Sindhu was playing well. She stuck to her strategy. She had to believe in herself and stay with it. It is good that she has done with that.”
The coach stressed this win has done a world of good to Sindhu. “Although there is a lot of talk of her not winning the finals it did hurt her. It wasn’t that she was losing because of the pressure. So I thought this win was fantastic. It has done a world of good to her confidence.”