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Why does PV Sindhu struggle outside big tournaments?

PV Sindhu
PV Sindhu's record outside big global events is quite poor
Modified 11 Jan 2020

Once again, PV Sindhu failed to win a BWF World Tour event. The World Tour began in 2018 and took the place of its forerunner BWF Super Series. It would shock many of you to know that, as the third season for the tour has kicked off, India’s leading badminton star is yet to win even a single event of it, except for the BWF World Tour Finals in 2018.

Now, in the same period, Sindhu has managed to reach the final of two World Championships, winning one of them, reach the final of the Asian Games, and win the first World Tour Finals event. It is clear that Sindhu has this hard to fathom quality of bringing her A-game in major global events but fading away in others.

Big Game Player

In the entire World Tour season of 2018 and 2019, Sindhu reached the finals of only three other events besides 2018 World Tour Finals. What is worse, her performance last year, in the first half of the season was utterly depressing. She was losing to ordinary players and seemed completely flustered at times.

But as soon as the time for World Championship arrived she regained her form and, after reaching the final of Indonesia Open, became the World Champion. But after that, her poor form resurfaced. Surprising, she couldn’t lift her game even for the 2019 World Tour Finals, despite being the defending champion.

Cometh the hour, cometh the champion
Cometh the hour, cometh the champion

The reasons for inconsistency

So, what is the problem? Why is there such a contrast in how the lass from Hyderabad plays in the big events and how she plays in comparatively minor ones?

The reason seems to be purely psychological. If one followed her campaign in the World Championship last year, they would know that it was the quarter-final against Tai Tzu Ying and not the two subsequent matches which were the key to her becoming the first Indian to gain the World Champion status.


Chen Yufei in the semi-final and Nozomi Okuhara in the final were no match for the 24-year old. Instead, it was Tai Tzu Ying who gave Sindhu the toughest fight in the tournament. But the Indian shuttler played possibly the best game of her career and fought as hard as she could for every point. Her tenacity and perseverance was unstinting and that won her that game. That was Sindhu at her best, fighting, grappling, jousting for every point, using her long reach to retrieve every shot, even the most exceptional ones from Tai, and eventually triumphing. Unfortunately, that Sindhu hasn’t been seen since.

When playing well, Sindhu takes full advantage of her long reach
When playing well, Sindhu takes full advantage of her long reach

So, the question remains: What is it that makes her not as competitive in these lesser events. It seems there is just one answer: lack of will. She doesn’t have the same fighting spirit in these tournaments as she does in big events. The tenacity she showed against Tai in World Championship quarter-final isn’t there on other occasions.


One also has to consider the mental aspect of her game. She is clearly someone who saves her best for the big tournaments and has a great desire to succeed on the big stage. In all likelihood, she is unable to achieve that same level of motivation and drive in lesser events. Some have even suggested that this intense focus on big tournaments is the result of Pulella Gopichand’s training.

Are these events important?

Let’s be fair, who cares about World Tour events as long as she is winning World Championships or Olympic medal. Given a choice, all Indian fans would happily trade an Olympic medal from the tall shuttler this year in return for poor performances in all other tournaments.

Her next challenge would be the Premier Badminton League (PBL). It would be interesting to see how she does here. Last year, she failed to make the final of her home World Tour event – Indian Open – and the year before, she lost to Beiwen Zhang in the final.

Playing at home

Playing at home, in front of her countrymen should spur her on to a higher level of performance. If she does well in the PBL, she can look forward to also performing well in this year’s edition of Indian Open. The fans who will come to see her won’t bother about her record in World Tour. For them, she is the first Indian to become World Champion and the pride of the country.

Yes, the pressure of playing in a franchise-based league can never be considered equal to the Olympics, but both PBL and Indian Open – due to being played in India – would attract greater attention and scrutiny. If Sindhu shines in them, she would be able to better handle the pressure of Olympics. 

Published 11 Jan 2020, 20:43 IST
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