In Marin’s absence Tai Tzu Ying is the biggest threat to Sindhu, says Sayali Gokhale

Sayali Gokhale
Sayali Gokhale

After Carolina Marin’s withdrawal, Tai Tzu Ying will be the biggest threat to PV Sindhu at the Tokyo Olympics, said former Indian shuttler Sayali Gokhale on Monday.

Reigning Olympic champion Carolina Marin will not be able to defend her crown in Tokyo due to a serious knee injury she suffered during practice a couple of weeks ago. The absence of Marin has opened the doors wide for other contenders as they aim for a gold medal.

Two-time national champion Sayali Gokhale rates PV Sindhu’s chances pretty highly and she is quite confident about a medal from her. Sayali Gokhale believes that Sindhu always raises her performance in major competitions, which is the hallmark of any champion.

“I think Sindhu has a very bright chance of bagging yet another medal for the country in the Olympics. She always reaches the peak of her form at major events like Olympics and World Championships. She plans her preparations in such a way that she can deliver her best while competing at the big tournaments. I am quite confident that she will be at her peak in Tokyo next month.”

Former Indian star Sayali Gokhale considers Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei as Sindhu’s biggest threat in the Tokyo Olympics. The world No. 1 has been in tremendous form the last few seasons. She has a commanding record against Sindhu, the silver medallist at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

“Sindhu will have to somehow crack the Tai Tzu code if she wants to repeat the podium finish. Tai Tzu Ying has been dominating Sindhu in the previous few encounters and therefore she remains the biggest threat for the tall Indian. I hope they stay in different halves of the draw. Besides Tai Tzu Ying, I believe Sindhu is capable of beating the others including the Japanese duo of Nozomi Okuhara and Akane Yamaguchi.”

Japan is the host country and their top two players have qualified for the women’s singles competition. Nozomi Okuhara and Akane Yamaguchi are ranked third and fifth in the world, respectively.

World No. 6 Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand and world No. 2 Chen Yu Fei of China are also some of the quality players who will have a shot at the gold medal.

Sindhu masters tricky shots well, says Sayali Gokhale

Sayali Gokhale, who was a gold medalist at the 2010 Dhaka South Asian Games in the women’s single, continued:

“It is not only Tai Tzu Ying that there are some other good players also in the hunt. But I believe Sindhu will have an advantage over them. She is equipped enough to handle them. She has a better record against them all including the Japanese duo. Sindhu has developed some tricky shots of late which will help her while dealing with top players in Tokyo. She always tries to come up with some deceptive strokes. She practices them well and masters them. It’s the biggest advantage of Sindhu.”

Sayali Gokhale was full of praise for Sindhu for her phenomenal rise ever since she had defeated the current world No. 7 in the Senior National Badminton Championship in 2012 at Srinagar.

Sayali Gokhale shocked defending champion Sindhu 21-15, 15-21, 21-15 in the final to win her second Senior National title.

Sayali Gokhale
Sayali Gokhale

Sayali Gokhale recalled:

“Yes I still remember that final when I had surprised Sindhu. She was only 17 then but the hot favorite to win her back-to-back Senior National titles. Nobody had given me any chance that day to beat Sindhu. Even I was not sure of my win because she was already a star at that time. Just a few weeks ago she had beaten the London Olympics gold medal winner Li Xuerui of China. Even spectators at the Srinagar stadium were not watching our match. Only when I won the first game against Sindhu, did they start watching our match.”

It remains the only time Sayali Gokhale has beaten Sindhu in her career. The two previous meetings before Srinagar between the players had been won by a much younger Sindhu.

Sayali Gokhale has represented the Indian badminton team in several tournaments, including the Uber Cup in 2014 in New Delhi, where the hosts won the bronze medal.

“We never played too many matches against each other. By the time she started coming up on the circuit I was already at the fag end of my career. I lost to Sindhu in the Tata Open final in Mumbai in 2011. Even at the Syed Modi Grand Prix in Lucknow, she got the better of me as a 15-year-old. She had that potential from the beginning of her career. I lost in the Tata Open and Syed Modi GP because there is always a lot of pressure on the seniors when they face talented youngsters.”

Sayali married former Indian shuttler Sagar Chopda in 2013 in Pune. The badminton couple recently had a baby girl, Siya. They shifted to Bengaluru after their wedding and are now part of the coaching team at Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy.

Sayali concluded:

“My daughter Siya is now six months old. I am hoping to start coaching the youngsters once she turns one. I have been missing the badminton action for the last few months as my baby keeps me busy all the time.”

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Edited by Rohit Mishra