PV Sindhu finds an emollient in Korea to heal the scar from the loss at Glasgow
The S K Handball stadium in Seoul was all lit up as the darling of India, PV Sindhu went up the victory podium and flashed the gold medal to send millions of fans berserk with ecstasy. The Korea Open Superseries title meant that she finally found an emollient to heal the scar from that hair-line margin loss at the hands of the tenacious Japanese, Nozomi Okuhara in Glasgow last month.
The US$ 45,000 prize although adding to the riches cannot compete with the dazzle of the gold and its worth both, for our nation and the towering Sindhu who already is a priceless jewel of Badminton for our country.
The stage was set once again, this time in Korea with the same two relentless fighters but a twist in the tale and tables turned. The one-hour and twenty-three-minute encounter ended with a 22-20 11-21 21-18 verdict in favour of Sindhu against the Japanese who made sure she squeezed every ounce of energy to put up a valiant fight. This win added up to Sindhu’s third Super Series title along with the China Open in 2016 and the India Open 2017.
On the other hand, it thwarted the eight seed, Okuhara’s bid to win a third straight title after winning the Australian Open and the World Championship crown last month.
Looking back at Sindhu and Okuhara’s past few meetings, the first win came at the Rio Olympics 2016 semifinals when Sindhu ousted the petite Okuhara 21-19 21-10. The second win came at the Singapore Open in April this year when Okuhara stretched her to three but saw her win 10-21 21-15 22-20 in the end.
Nonetheless, the victory at Korea as she snatched the Gold will certainly be etched as one of the sweetest victories over the Japanese ever. It also added another feather in India’s cap as it registered the first ever win in Korea for the country.
Comparing the duel at Glasgow last month, this match was not a match. The 110 minutes of an arduous battle that drained out both was an epic that is etched in the history of Badminton ever. The level of fight they put up, both Okuhara and Sindhu in that match was beyond human understanding. Gut-wrenching play from both took the entire Badminton world by storm. Perhaps nothing can ever compare to that saga that had left the hearts of fans racing with lightning speeds.
The Korea Open final albeit did not attain that kind of peak but it ensured that both were worn out after giving it all they had. Was an absolute display of mental and physical fortitude from both. A weary Sindhu, in the end, was not able to grasp the graveness of the situation for a second when the last point she won was an error from the Japanese.
Sindhu was dazed, as much as we fans were, watching and praying for our star to get the sweet revenge. And she did not let us down and how.
To be honest, Sindhu was not at her very best game from the beginning of the tournament. Nevertheless what mattered, in the end, was that she finally wore the Gold around her neck and added to the jewellery. The opening match against Hong Kong’s Cheung Ngan Yi saw a rather flawless win for Sindhu.
The next match saw her struggling a bit against Thailand’s Nitchaon Jindapol. Japan’s Minatsu Mitani stretched Sindhu to three in the quarterfinals while the same happened against China’s He Bingjiao.
Okuhara, on the other hand, had a rather impressive resume at the end of the tournament. Her road to the final saw her snatching straight-set wins over China’s Beiwen Zhang and Japanese Sayako Sato in the first two rounds and then in the quarterfinals Hong Kong Yip Pui Yin and Aakane Yamaguchi in her last before the final.
How the match unfolded
The first game was a very tight affair. Sindhu took the early lead 2-0 but the Japanese kept her on her toes. Lurking in close behind, she was bent on closing the deficit. We could well see the subtle glimpses of their earlier epic encounter when the rallies got longer and Sindhu won the first long rally with a smash.
Long rallies are the Olympic bronze medallist, Okuhara’s forte. It somehow suits her miniature stature and wears down the opponent. Sindhu failed to keep the lead as Okuhara won four straight points to grab a 9-7 lead. Her fighting spirit is something to which we can bow to.
Making it 11-9, she left the world no. 4 Sindhu gasping for breath. The next was an attacking, fierce rally that ended in a smash to make it 9-12. She then went on to grab the next eight points after the break to turn the fortunes at 14-13. The see-saw battle continued and at the end of 28 minutes, Sindhu finally clawed to snatch the first game 22-20
The World no. 7, Okuhara made a wild comeback in the second game. Unending unforced errors from Sindhu meant meat for the Japanese. Sindhu kept struggling for length and precision while Okuhara took to the driver’s seat in the second game. Taking it to 11-6 at the break in the second game, Okuhara left Sindhu exhausted and having no answers to her attacking shots. The Japanese levelled the match at one game all by taking the second game.
In the decider, Sindhu somehow managed to find her feet. She was determined to unleash her best. She again managed to maintain an 11-5 lead. She would not let the racquet waste out the match and the golden opportunity. The rallies kept getting wilder and both players were not ready to lose a point.
Okuhara displayed tremendous defensive skills and was bent on reducing the deficit while she reached 16-18. At 20-17 Sindhu had three match points. Okuhara was trying her best and in the process of saving a match point sent the shuttle long and gifted Sindhu the big win.
The match was set in favour of Sindhu and us fans roared in joy and clenched fists as the Hyderabadi star silently lifted her arms and closed her eyes to let the victory sink in.
Ecstatic after Sindhu’s win, her father Ramana said: “After the world championship she was upset and luckily she could come out of it. One good thing is that Sindhu enjoys playing and so she doesn’t get tired when she is practising.”
The result of the relentless practice reaped fruits and Sindhu was able to bathe in victory to wash out the woes of her loss in Glasgow.
Summing it up, we can say that with these sumptuous back to back finals that Sindhu and Okuhara have been dishing out for fans, it will be equally interesting to track the Japan Super Series that begins next week where both are expected to clash in the earlier rounds.