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Setting examples on and off the court, PV Sindhu is truly the consummate professional sports star

FEATURED COLUMNIST
Feature
877   //    03 Apr 2017, 19:38 IST
The shuttler won silver at the Rio Olympics in 2016

Since their final at the Olympic Games last year, PV Sindhu and Carolina Marin have had contrasting fortunes. The Spaniard, who won gold after an epic three-game battle, has been hit by a spate of injuries after her Brazilian sojourn. Since then, she has struggled to hit top gear and has not won any title on the regular BWF Tour.

“Last year, we had prepared in a way so that we could peak and play our best at the Olympic Games. It was the sole focus for all of us. After the final, I was struggling with multiple injuries and it was only after January that I started feeling better,” said Marin.

The southpaw added, “I am very happy with my week’s performance at the India Open. I am still trying to gain confidence and hopefully, the titles will come soon.”

On the other hand, Sindhu has gone from strength to strength following her silver medal from Rio. After her most recent triumph at the India Open Superseries, she might achieve a career-high ranking of number two in the world.

Her form at home has been flawless, as she also picked up the Syed Modi International Trophy in January in Lucknow following a victory with the Chennai Smashers in the Premier Badminton League.

The India Open triumph is also her second Superseries win, with the first coming in November 2016 at the China Open, where she defeated home favourite Sun Yu in three sets 21-11 17-21 21-11. She followed it up with another spectacular performance at the Hong Kong Open just a week later, where she reached the final before losing out to World No.1 Tai Tzu Ying.

Since the Rio showdown, she has made significant changes to her game, increasing her aggression and improving her strokeplay at the net. But the change that stands out even more is her nature off-court and how she handles herself despite being one of the most popular faces in the world’s second-most populous country.

Her rise to stardom was almost immediate. It was her senior compatriot Saina Nehwal, a medalist from the London Olympics in 2012, who was widely expected to win another place at the podium in Rio.

Sindhu fought with vigour and aggression, reaching the finals after defeating multiple higher-ranked opponents to bring relief to a billion faces back home, as her silver formed one-half of India’s total medal tally at the Games.

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At the India Open, she was surrounded by supporters, young and old, and she dealt with them with truly remarkable grace. At such a young age, it is very easy to let the success get to one’s head but the 21-year-old has been a truly consummate professional in her dealings with the fans, the media, her peers along with various officials and politicians, some of whom who even think that she is a volleyball player

Her dedication towards the sport is also another aspect that is quite awe-inspiring as she left straight for the airport to catch a flight for Malaysia to play in her next tournament after winning the final in Delhi. In a heart-warming gesture, she was quick to express her gratitude towards the national coach Pullela Gopichand and the new Indonesian coaches.

She said, “It was great having Gopi sir sit courtside and help me during the match. Also, I must thank the new coaches Mulyo Handoyo and Hariawan, who I have worked with for a little over a month now and they have really helped me improve.”

In her run to the trophy, she defeated Saina Nehwal, Sung Ji Hyun and Carolina Marin, in front of a boisterous crowd at the Siri Fort Stadium, that along with lifting her spirits, was also guilty of shouting between rallies and taking photographs during points with flash.

But Sindhu was unperturbed by all of it, showing her extraordinary focus on matters on-court and after all three matches, she thanked the audiences for showing up in such large numbers.

Also Read: India Open 2017: How PV Sindhu conquered the Olympic champion Carolina Marin

Keeping in mind recent incidents involving Virat Kohli and his public statements towards the visiting Australian team, coupled with a brief war of words between Nehwal and Marin regarding the world number one ranking, Sindhu’s interactions with the media show her levels of maturity and how she limits her rivalries to the area of play and not beyond the lines of the badminton court.

After her quarterfinal against Nehwal, she was quick to play down the rivalry angle with her senior. She said, “The media have built up our rivalry since a very long time. It is there, but limited to the court only. Outside, we are good friends.” A similar relationship she shares with Marin as well, setting a fine example for youngsters to follow.

Sindhu is now getting set to contest the Malaysia Open World Superseries Premier in Kuching, where she will look to continue her rich vein of form. It is fair to say that she exhibits qualities that are rarely found in sportspersons in India and if she can carry on in similar fashion, she is certain to dominate the sport for years to come.

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