It’s four-all! With her title win at the Korea Open Superseries, PV Sindhu levelled her head-to-head record against her latest nemesis. We are talking about the latest rivalry that has emerged in the world of badminton in women’s singles -- and it’s not Sindhu vs Carolina Marin or Sindhu vs Saina Nehwal. Rather, it is Sindhu vs Nozomi Okuhara, which has taken the badminton fraternity by storm in the last few months.
What has made this rivalry even more captivating is the contrasting style of the game the players execute, fighting for each point -- till the last ounce of their energy and their incredible shot-making. Their grit and unbelievable retrieval capacity have always kept the fans at edge-of-their-seats. This rivalry has certainly acquired a special status now, in terms of the game, fans and TV viewership.
Six of their last seven matches have gone down to three games and today’s final in Seoul was no different. While the World Championships final, a 110-minute epic battle, stands out among all with an extraordinary 73-shot rally being the highlight, Sunday’s encounter too was equally engrossing.
It had flashes of the Worlds final as both made gladiatorial efforts to sustain in the long energy-sapping rallies before a 56-shot exchange in the deciding game left the shuttlers collapsing on the floor, gasping for breath. Sindhu finally could conquer the resolute Japanese and avenged her defeat at the World Championships, coming up trumps in an 83-minute thriller.
The Hyderabad lass, who picked up her second Super Series title of the season and third overall, also denied Okuhara her third title on the trot. The World No. 9 diminutive shuttler won the 2017 Australian Open before she became the first Japanese to win the World Championship women's singles gold medal.
Sindhu and Okuhara have played each other since their junior days -- at the Badminton Asia Youth Under-19 Championships in 2012, where the Indian emerged as the winner. But it was only at the 2016 Rio Olympics where they met in the semi-finals, that their rivalry gained prominence. The Rio encounter was the only match that ended in straight games with Sindhu entering the famed final.
The rivalry has grown since then, and even Sindhu felt that her rivalry with Okuhara is the one of the talked about in the circuit now. “Everybody used to say I had a rivalry with Carolina (Marin) but now maybe they’re saying it’s Okuhara,” Sindhu was quoted as saying to the Badminton World Federation.
Talking to this correspondent from Seoul, Sindhu said, “it was a sweet revenge.”
“After the World Championships, we faced each other here and it was once again a great match. But I compare the atmosphere of both the championships as they are very different. She is a tough player and played very well. I am very happy to win this time,” added the Indian world no. 4 of the rivalry.
Sindhu admitted that it was a tiring match for both the players and added, "There were long rallies and both of us were trying to win each point. At 18-16 in the third game, winning that rally was crucial as she was reducing the gap. I am happy I didn't falter and could control the shuttle well."
With both the shuttlers quite young at 22, fit and in superb form, the badminton world should expect many such epic encounters in the coming time. As the action now shifts to Japan for the eighth Superseries of the season, Sindhu and Okuhara are expected to meet early, in the second round. It remains to be seen how they tackle this next matchup and as fans, we will look forward to their match with great delight!