All England Open 2018: Can PV Sindhu reach the final for the first time?
With runner-up finishes at the Rio Olympics, the World Championships and the World Superseries Finals, the All England Open remains a glaring exception for India’s PV Sindhu for it is the only elite tournament where she has failed to reach even the semi-finals. But Sindhu is very much upbeat to change that this time.
With her eyes firmly fixed on the World No. 1 ranking, the currently fourth-ranked Sindhu would aim to create history at the All England Open this week.
How good are her chances of winning the title? We take an in-depth look:
Sindhu has been presented with a comfortable opener, albeit her path gets tougher as she progresses deep into the draw. A win over the former World Junior Championships silver medallist Pornpawee Chochuwong will pit her against her India Open conqueror, Beiwen Zhang.
Sindhu just did not do enough to close out the American in that match in front of the roaring Delhi crowd. Hopefully, she has learnt from her mistakes and is eager to avenge that defeat.
The World No. 4 next has a chance to reprise her rivalry with the world champion Nozomi Okuhara. The two, who wowed the world with their marathon Worlds final, can very much gift fans yet another classic. However, it would be fair to say that the Japanese is still not at her best, having joined the BWF Tour in January end after recovering from a knee injury.
In the semi-finals, the 22-year-old would be up against either the second seeded Akane Yamaguchi or the fifth seeded Carolina Marin. And that would be one tricky challenge for the Indian even if she eases past Okuhara in the earlier round.
Marin did get the better of Sindhu in their last clash, but hasn’t been the same player who dominated the circuit back in 2015. Her inconsistency could pave the way for a Sindhu win.
Yamaguchi prevailed over Sindhu in an epic final at the World Superseries Finals in December but was outclassed in their next encounter at the Badminton Asia Championships in February. Having said that, it needs to be remembered that the diminutive Japanese stood tall at last week’s German Open, winning the title and would look to ride on that momentum at the All England Open.
If Sindhu manages to surmount all these obstacles, then the barrier gets even loftier in the next round for the World No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying is expected to be waiting there. The Indian has lost her last four matches to the Chinese Taipei ace and has a losing 3-8 head-to-head record.
Needless to say, it would need an absolute immaculate display from the Indian to have any chance, provided Tai doesn’t manage to bring her usual sharp game.
Record at All England Open
Sindhu’s best result so far has been a quarter-final finish, which she achieved last year.
Record in 2018
Sindhu has had quite a confidence-boosting start to the 2018 season, winning nine of her 11 singles matches. The only big disappointment for Sindhu so far this year has been her inability to defend her India Open title.
The Indian was the favourite against the lower-ranked Beiwen Zhang, but the underdog pulled off the upset win in three close games.
Her ruthless attack has always been her forte ever since she stormed into the circuit in her teens. She made the world notice her immense talent when she rode on her aggressive game to two World Championships bronze medals in 2013 and 2014.
Sindhu remains absolutely unfazed when she has to take on the more accomplished names of her sport. That fearless attitude has led her to medals at the Olympic Games, the World Championships and the World Superseries Finals.
Although her defence and backhands have been the relatively weaker areas of her game, she has shown lots of improvement. Sindhu is, however, troubled time and again by players whom she cannot overpower.
Players like Tai Tzu Ying and Ratchanok Intanon have been able to master her through their finesse and guile. Deceptive strokes can be a big cause of botheration to Sindhu and that is something she needs to work on more.
Although it has been a proud moment for Indians to see her battling it out in the finals of some of the most prestigious tournaments in the world, it has simultaneously been bitterly disappointing to see her falling after a gutsy fight. Each of her losses in Rio, the World Championships, the World Superseries Finals and the India Open came in three games.
The reason for this could be the fact that the lanky Indian tires out as the match goes the distance and tends to be a bit passive and play it safe towards the end. A tiny dip in her level of aggression is what her opponents need to do her in.
Hopefully, Sindhu and her mentor Pullela Gopichand will work out a way to prevent a repetition of this.