The recently concluded BWF World Tour Finals 2018 at Guangzhou, China had sports enthusiasts from around the world hooked from the get-go. From the Indian viewpoint, the main interest centred around the performance of PV Sindhu and Sameer Verma. While Sindhu had qualified on the back of a string of consistent performances around the year (she had played in 5 Finals but lost all), Verma had made it by the skin of his teeth, by winning the Syed Modi International Badminton Tournament, the last for qualification.
Now that the World Tour Finals are over, it is time to analyse what Sindhu's maiden victory in the event and Sameer's sterling performance mean for Indian badminton. The newspapers and TV channels are rightly exulting that Sindhu has broken her 'jinx' and have proclaimed her as a serious Olympic contender. There are three main takeaways from Sindhu's win:
#3 Her renewed self-belief
In earlier matches, Sindhu appeared unsure when subjected to pressure. No surprises here, considering that she had lost several finals on extra points. Such narrow losses would have broken the spirit of lesser mortals, but Sindhu is made of sterner stuff. Even when down game-points against Intanon, for instance, she never looked flustered. She continued playing according to her game-plan. The result: she lost only one game against the best in the business!
#2 Her improved stroke-selection
What impressed connoisseurs was Sindhu's choice of shots, especially when pushed to the wall. Against Okuhara, her nemesis of old, she was prepared to engage in long rallies and wait till an opportunity presented itself. This completely unsettled the Japanese shuttler, who was perhaps expecting Sindhu to rush her stroke-play.
#1 Her better physical conditioning
In earlier tournaments, spectators were often subjected to the sight of Sindhu doubled up after a prolonged rally, fighting to get her breath back. No longer. This is the new, improved Sindhu 2.0, fully geared to the demands made by top-flight badminton on her body. This enabled her to rally splendidly even when down 6-11 in the decider against the crafty Tai Tzu Ying, showing great reserves of stamina.
In sum, those who consider Sindhu as destined for greater things are not far of the mark!
It is a pity that Sindhu's exploits have put Sameer's heroics in the shade. These were no less significant and augur well for the future. How? Watch this space for a companion piece!