At 20-19, P.V. Sindhu was in a similar situation she had been before. And what followed thereafter at the Siri Fort Stadium on Sunday was also a familiar state for the World no. 4 Indian, who eventually faltered in the crucial junctures to lose yet another final—this time at the India Open 2018. Sindhu went down fighting to World no. 11 Beiwen Zhang (USA) 18-21, 21-11, 20-22 in a thrilling women’s singles final.
This was Sindhu’s second podium finish at the New Delhi event, where she was title winner last year. Since then, she had fallen in four finals—World Championship (August), Hong Kong Open (November) and Dubai Super Series Final (December) last year and today. Sindhu’s only other successful campaign in the final was at the Korea Open Superseries where she avenged her world championship loss against Japanese Nozomi Okuhara.
More than the glory of success, the agony of losing close finals might have struck Sindhu more often, in the recent past. And this time, it must have been harder for the Olympic silver medallist that she skipped the mandatory press conference.
When the eventual winner Zhang was asked in the presser on Sindhu’s game, she said: “I think she had more pressure than me. I had nothing to lose. I just played my game. In Indian side, people wanted her to win. She wasn’t able to control that pressure.”
A member of Sindhu's coaching staff didn’t want to read too much into his ward's performance but admitted she was under pressure.
“Home pressure, then fatigue as she played her semi-final pretty late yesterday and didn't have proper sleep. At 20-all, it was anybody’s game. She is definitely upset but should be able to overcome it soon,” the coach told this correspondent.
Did Zhang’s game surprise him? The coach said the China-born shuttler did impress him with her skills in the semi-finals. “She was very sharp yesterday. But today, she was average. Sindhu could have won the game. But then, Zhang kept her cool better than her,” he added.
Former Asian Championships winner Dinesh Khanna, who was at the VIP stands at the Siri Forts Stadium, felt it was a matter of luck that Sindhu has lost more finals than winning them in the recent past. Though he mentioned that it was one of those high-quality matches where both the players were at par and only a few points in crucial stages made the difference.
Unlike their semi-finals, Sindhu and Zhang engaged in slow-paced rallies, back and front, played angled slices and several net rallies as skills and movements of both the players were tested. In the end, the nerve mattered as Sindhu made an unforced error.
“It can be a matter of luck when one loses such close matches like on deuce. Earlier also, she lost the World the Championship final, I think was in a similar fashion, you can call it sheer luck. Also, the reason may be Zhang was able to keep her cool better and played the crucial points better than Sindhu.
“Once Sindhu lost the point at 19-20, I could see the pressure got on her. In those crucial stages, mental strength plays a vital role and it has to be as good as your game and combining both, one can achieve the desired result,” Khanna told this correspondent.
The 75-year-old also heaped praise on the American shuttler who he felt was able to score some crucial points with her pin-pointed smashes on forehand of Sindhu. “Zhang kept a very good length and never allowed Sindhu to get into her attacking mode. Even when Sindhu smashes, Zhang came out with a strong defensive game.”
Talking about how the game has changed since his playing days, Khanna added: “It’s a very interesting stage in international badminton. That’s the reason we are able to see the best quality of the game. Different players have different strengths. Sindhu is an attacking player but today she could only go for limited attack, which was the strategy for Zhang.
“Our players need to keep working hard. There is no shortcut to success. And they have had their successes including Sindhu who has won many Superseries titles, she was also in the finals of the Dubai Superseries Finals. She is quite young and we have lots of hopes on her,” he signed off.Published 05 Feb 2018, 12:29 IST