PV Sindhu is headed for her second Olympic appearance as India's biggest gold medal hope from the Tokyo Games. She became India's youngest Olympic medalist when she won silver in women's singles badminton at Rio at the age of 21.
But can she deliver one of India's greatest ever Olympic performances and win gold at the Tokyo Olympics 2020?
Firstly, the reigning Olympic champion, Carolina Marin, will not be defending her title in Tokyo. The Spaniard was ruled out of this month's Olympics after she tore her ACL and both meniscus in her left knee.
PV Sindhu and Carolina Marin have faced each other 14 times with the Spaniard getting the better of Sindhu in nine of those clashes. Marin enjoys a 2-1 record over Sindhu in major finals while in knockout matches, the southpaw has defeated the Indian seven times.
So, statistically, it becomes difficult for PV Sindhu to win a match if Marin is on the other side of the net. With Carolina Marin out of action, one of PV Sindhu's biggest hurdles has been taken care of.
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PV Sindhu will enter the women's singles tournament at the Olympics as the reigning world champion. After two near misses in 2017 and 2018, PV Sindhu finally became third time lucky in 2019. She smashed her way 21-7, 21-7 past Nozomi Okuhara in a lopsided final at the 2019 World Championships.
There were two things to learn from that final. PV Sindhu has worked hard on her physical fitness and has also grown mentally stronger.
At the Olympics, in crunch situations these factors will play a big role.
PV Sindhu's gameplay, especially the defense, has also improved. A strong defense when coupled with a great physical presence on the court can make a shuttler difficult to beat. Sindhu's 5ft 11in height makes her cover every corner of the court with ease and with a better defense she should be able to sustain long rallies.
Sindhu has diligently worked on every aspect of her game. But in a high-pressure event like the Olympics, what matters is how a player performs on a particular day. PV Sindhu will have to overcome the threats posed by the likes of Tai Tzu Ying, Chen Yufei, He Bingjiao, Ratchanok Intanon, An Se-young, Nozomi Okuhara and Akane Yamaguchi to make her way to the gold.
However, India's youngest Olympic medalist is determined in her pursuit of reaching a place where no Indian shuttler has ever been before. Her hunger for glory and her ability to reserve her best for the biggest tournaments might be enough to help her finish on the top podium.
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