Badminton has been one of India's most successful sports at the Olympics of late, bringing home 2 medals in the past two editions. Considering how India has established itself as a badminton powerhouse, the sport remains one of the strongest bets to secure a medal in Tokyo.
Even though badminton qualifiers for the Tokyo Olympics are still not confirmed, PV Sindhu remains in pole position to make her second consecutive Olympic appearance.
The 25-year-old is currently 7th in the Race to Tokyo rankings. Finishing in the top-8 is of utmost importance as it will not only give her an automatic qualification but a favorable draw as well.
With the qualification period extended till 13th June, Sindhu has a great opportunity to improve her ranking in the Race to Tokyo.
On that note, let's take an in-depth look at her past Olympic performances as well as her chances for the upcoming one.
PV Sindhu's past Olympic performance
What sets PV Sindhu apart from the rest is her ability to raise her level for the biggest tournaments. Time and again, the Hyderabadi has proved to be a big-match player and the Rio Olympics was no exception. Sindhu performed with aplomb and fearlessness that are the true qualities of a champion.
It was Sindhu's first appearance at an Olympic Games, yet it didn't intimidate her.
The qualification for the Rio Olympics wasn't a smooth affair. A stress fracture robbed her of nearly 6 months of play, yet Sindhu was able to fulfill her Olympic dream.
At Rio, Sindhu's path was fraught with danger during the knockout rounds. The ninth seed came face-to-face with Tai Tzu Ying in the Round of 16. Sindhu had a losing 2-4 head-to-head record against the wily Chinese Taipei shuttler heading into that match. As someone who traditionally struggles against players with variety, Sindhu pulled off a surprising 21-13, 21-15 win4
One of the legends of the game, Wang Yihan was up next in yet another tricky match. It turned out to be a gritty contest against the World No. 2, which ultimately boiled down to a battle of nerves.
Sindhu passed that test with flying colors, securing a tight 22-20, 21-19 victory over the Chinese.
In the semi-finals, Nozomi Okuhara's brilliant defense was supposed to pose a threat for the Indian. However, Sindhu was prepared for it and dismantled the Japanese with a show of stunning aggression. The 21-19, 21-10 win sealed the 21-year-old's entry into the final in a historic first for India.
In an enthralling 83-minute classic, World No.1 Carolina Marin edged PV Sindhu 19-21, 21-12, 21-15. The Indian might have lost but not before giving an exhibition of her fighting spirit on the biggest stage.
With that result, she etched her name in the record books as the first Indian shuttler as well as the first Indian female to win an Olympic silver medal.
PV Sindhu's current form
Five years on, PV Sindhu remains India's best bet to secure a badminton medal at the Olympics. In the intervening period, she added the World Championships crown as well as the BWF World Tour Finals title to her glittering resume.
Since being crowned the world champion in 2019, Sindhu didn't get much of a chance to build on it last year. The badminton world came to a standstill because of the COVID-19 outbreak, throwing the calendar into disarray.
With renewed vigor and motivation, all shuttlers have come back this year. Even now tournaments are getting postponed or canceled altogether, leaving badminton players with only a handful of opportunities to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics.
In the few events played this year, Sindhu initially showed signs of struggle. She failed to breach the quarter-final hurdle in the three tournaments played in Bangkok in January.
Much to the relief of her fans, Sindhu came back stronger as the BWF Tour headed to Europe.
The World No. 7 made her way into the final of the Swiss Open, where she lost to familiar foe, Carolina Marin. What would boost Sindhu's confidence are her wins over trickyopponents, Mia Blichfeldt and Busanan Ongbamrungphan along the way.
She carried the momentum into the All England Open, where she made the semis for the second time in her career. A big 16-21, 21-16, 21-19 win over her nemesis, Akane Yamaguchi should stand her in good stead ahead of the Tokyo Olympics. The fact that she managed to beat the Japanese for the first time since 2018 should be the biggest positive she could draw from her All England Open campaign.
PV Sindhu's chances of bagging a Tokyo Olympic berth
As mentioned earlier, Sindhu's European exploits have helped her stay put at the No. 7 position in the Race to Tokyo rankings.
The India No. 1 will get plenty of chances to move up the rankings ladder at the India Open, Malaysia Open and Singapore Open later this year. Competition will, however, be at its fiercest at all these Olympic qualifiers as there will be a last-minute mad scrambling for Tokyo berths.
While Sindhu has shown that she is on her way to peak at the right time, she still has some work to do. Recovering from long matches has been a recurring issue for her in recent times. It was evident from how drained out she looked in her Swiss Open final loss to Carolina Marin and her All England Open semi-final defeat to Pornpawee Chochuwong.
That is one area where Sindhu and Pullela Gopichand need to give more attention.
In a recent interview with PTI, former national coach Vimal Kumar too echoed the same sentiments.
"I feel the best (Olympic) medal prospect is Sindhu, she can and there is still time. She showed some glimpses against Akane Yamaguchi (at All England quarters). But she needs to give more attention to recovery to be ready for next match because there will not be 24 hours to recover," Vimal said.
"Maybe ice bath, there are so many ways to get rid of the lactic acid accumulation after a tough match. If she can look into those aspects, she will be all right. I don't think she has any fitness issue," he added.
If Sindhu and her team can plug in these little chinks in her armor, there's no stopping the world champion from a second consecutive podium finish at the Olympics.