PV Sindhu is a champion player and not a choker
On 27th August, PV Sindhu played the second longest match in the history of women's singles in badminton. It was described by many current and ex-top badminton players as one of the best finals that women's badminton has ever seen. On 29th August, the headline in the Hindustan Times' article read " Why choker PV Sindhu is still not pure gold standard".
Anyone who watched that pulsating final between PV Sindhu and Nozomi Okuhara would find that headline shocking and disrespectful to the champion player. I was unable to understand how anyone could term such a gritty performer as a choker.
The term choker is used in sports to define big teams/players who are the favourite to win the match/championship but instead of being clinical, they fall like ninepins in the face of the victor.
PV Sindhu, on the other hand, has shown grit in the big finals. It is surely not a quality for which any choker is known.
The writer of the article says that Glasgow was a big failure and PV Sindhu was expected to win against a player who was ranked 8 rungs below her. He argues that a top athlete is expected to show nerves of steel, produce that additional ounce of stamina and demonstrate that extra edge to kill the opposition. Further, he adds that PV Sindhu has failed on all three aspects.
While mentioning all this, he also forgets to mention that both PV Sindhu and Nozomi Okuhara played their semifinal just a day before the finals.
Nozomi Okuhara got at least 7 hours of more rest as her semifinal was scheduled much earlier than that PV Sindhu’s. This may sound like an excuse but when you play in the second longest singles match of all time, a player who got more rest a day before will certainly exhibit more stamina.
Federer, the greatest tennis player of all time, said that higher ranking does not guarantee any success. I don't see any reason to doubt him.
Nozomi Okuhara may be 8 rungs below PV Sindhu in the rankings, but she is no pushover. Her career best world ranking is 3 and her record before the finals against PV Sindhu was 3-3. I don't know how the journalist expected PV Sindhu to win when every record in the book suggested that no one was a strong favourite in the contest. It was a battle of equals.
He further writes that PV Sindhu is expected to play in adversities and come out on top. He is right in the first part and wrong in the second. Any player is expected to play in adversities but no one can guarantee that they will come out on the top - not even Federer or Mayweather.
What any player can guarantee is giving their best on the field and as the scoreline of the final suggested that PV Sindhu gave one of her best performances but Nozomi Okuhara did slightly better. It was one of those days when you stand up and applaud your opponent for brilliant performance and move on.
Players are not machines that can be programmed to win every match (even machines fail once in a while) and the game is not a mathematical equation that will follow a set curve. The better performer of the day wins knockout matches, not the rankings.
It's true that PV Sindhu lost two big finals but using two finals to term PV Sindhu as a choker is a gross injustice not only to the player but also to the statistics subject. No generalization can be done with a sample size of just two. If you don't believe me then you can ask any statistician.
The writer quotes the example of Carolina Marin winning the World Championship in 2015 and the Olympic Gold in 2016 to make a point as to how champion players should be, but he forgets to mention that same Carolina Marin was packed out of this very World Badminton Championship 2017 by none other than Nozomi Okuhara.
The same Carolina Marin was beaten by PV Sindhu in the finals of the India Open 2017. In sports, much like in life, you win some and you lose some.
The greatness of a player doesn't come from the fact that they are infallible but from the fact that they are good at coming back harder after every defeat. All those who followed the career of PV Sindhu know that she has become a much better player since the Rio Olympics and maybe this defeat against Nozomi Okuhara will spur her to further improve her performances.
Every journalist has a right to question the performance of PV Sindhu. You can nitpick at her fitness or her net play etc. All this can be debated in open but no one has a right to use a demeaning term like choker for a champion player like PV Sindhu.
The career graph of PV Sindhu suggests that Gold will come sooner rather than later. And all these failures in the path to the Gold will help her to remove any flaw that might have remained in her game.
As the legendary Michael Jordan said:
"I have missed more than 9000 shots in my career. I have lost almost 300 games. 26 times i have been trusted to take the game winning shot and I missed. I have failed over and over and over again in my life. I can accept failures, everyone fails at something. But i cannot accept not trying. And that is why I succeed."
Failures inspire the champion players to perform better whereas it destroy the ordinary ones. I am certain that PV Sindhu will learn her lessons from this defeat. You can always argue whether PV Sindhu has reached the gold standard in badminton or not but calling her a choker is far from the reality and is surely not the gold standard of sports journalism.