PV Sindhu will face a tough challenge as she begins her title defence at the BWF World Tour Finals today 11 December. Circumstances have changed from a year back when she was desperately looking to win her first international first title of the season after failing at the final hurdle time and again.
When Sindhu arrived at the BWF World Tour Finals 2018, not many expected her to go all the way. But she has this uncanny ability to lift her game in the biggest tournaments.
And once more the Rio Olympic silver medallist showed that, as she beat a plethora of top-10 shuttlers, which also saw her ending her six-match losing streak to the World No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying.
Oozing confidence and conviction with every stroke, the Hyderabadi shuttler went on to win the biggest title of her career until then.
When the Indian ace takes the court today against Akane Yamaguchi, it will be a different affair altogether. Sindhu went from strength to strength to be crowned the women's singles queen at the World Championships in August. Again it came at a time when people least expected her to emerge as the eventual winner. In a repeat of last year, Sindhu couldn't win any title throughout the year but saved her best for the elite Basel event.
In one of the fiercest and most one-sided finals of all time, Sindhu brought forth all her power and aggression to blaze past former world champion Nozomi Okuhara. That momentous feat made her the first Indian ever to triumph at the World Championships.
It not only gave the 24-year-old the biggest title yet but it also increased the expectations of her countless fans and followers.
However, the shuttle queen failed to emulate her own heroics in any of the tournaments she played since then. Her form plummeted as Sindhu made it to the quarter-finals only once in six tournaments.
For the reigning world champion, this sudden dip was indeed a cause of concern. Was she finding it tough to deal with the pressure of expectations or was she simply tired after her World Championships exploits and did not want to exert herself much in the subsequent events?
The questions have been swirling in every badminton aficionado's mind for the past couple of months. Whatever it was, it made Sindhu look a pale shadow of herself, who looked hesitant and doubtful on the court, which is very much unlike her.
And this is the reason why, everybody will be waiting eagerly to see if Sindhu has managed to come out of the slump when she faces former champion Yamaguchi in their Group A clash today. Despite her recent struggles, there is always a hope that Sindhu will be able to summon the champion in her in such a high-profile event, where only the best-eight shuttlers of the season get the privilege to play.
Sindhu, on her part, trained under Korean coach Park Tae Sang in an attempt to rectify her mistakes and get ready for the prestigious season finale. It would be interesting to see if a refreshed and rejuvenated Sindhu can follow his guidance and produce her trademark smashes in her first match today.
Needless to say, former World No. 1 Akane Yamaguchi won't be an easy opponent even though the Indian does have a 10-6 edge in their head-to-head record. The Japanese has won both their encounters this year and that too, in straight games.
The diminutive Yamaguchi relies on her speed and footwork to reach every corner of the court and is adept at producing attacking shots while having a pretty solid defence. How good her defensive game can actually be, Yamaguchi displayed that in ample amounts in the blockbuster 2017 final she played against Sindhu, where she edged the lanky Indian in a gruelling three-game thriller.
Sindhu needs to get down to business right from the word go and ensure that Yamaguchi doesn't get to settle into her rhythm. For that, the world champion can definitely draw inspiration from their 2018 face-off at this very tournament, where Sindhu won 24-22, 21-15.
If she can believe in herself and get a favourable result today, she can most definitely fancy her chances of reaching the knockout stages.
Here is all you need to know about the BWF World Tour Finals 2019 Schedule
Tournament: 2019 BWF World Tour Finals
Category: World Tour Finals
Prize Money: US$1,500,000
Venue: Tianhe Gymnasium, Tianhe, Guangzhou, China
Dates: December 11 - December 15, 2019
Match schedule: Group A - Akane Yamaguchi vs PV Sindhu expected to be approx at 7pm IST on Wednesday, December 11, 2019.
Where to watch the matches in India?
The BWF World Tour Finals matches will be telecast live on Star Sports 1, Star Sports 1HD, Star Sports 3 and Star Sports 3 HD.
Live Stream Details and Info for the matches
Live Stream will be available on Hotstar.com.Published 11 Dec 2019, 15:13 IST