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World Badminton Championships 2017: Can PV Sindhu break the Nozomi Okuhara wall for the gold?

Sindhu won their all-important encounter at the Rio Olympics.


PV Sindhu won their last showdown in the first round of the 2017 Singapore Open Superseries
PV Sindhu won their last showdown in the first round of the 2017 Singapore Open Superseries

After a week of sizzling action at the Emirates Area in Glasgow, Scotland, we are finally on the last day of the 2017 BWF World Championships. India’s PV Sindhu is set to fight for the women’s singles gold against the Japanese seventh seed Nozomi Okuhara.

Either way, it will be historic regardless of the outcome. Okuhara is already the first player from Japan to make it through to the women’s singles final in the 40-year history of this elite meet.

A Sindhu win will give India its first ever gold medal from the World Championships which would be the jewel in the crown in a year that has already been dotted with memorable moments for Indian badminton.

Who has the advantage? Here’s a look at how they match up:

Head-to-head:

(4) PV Sindhu vs (7) Nozomi Okuhara

They are evenly tied at 3-3.


Last showdown:

PV Sindhu won their last showdown in the first round of the 2017 Singapore Open Superseries with a tight 10-21, 21-15, 22-20 scoreline.


Point to note:

The Indian has won their last two matches, with the one before the Singapore Open coming at the Rio Olympic Games where the Indian emerged a 21-19, 21-10 winner. It is interesting to note that it was the only time a match between Sindhu and Okuhara finished in straight games. The rest of their six encounters have all gone the distance, signalling that today’s final at the World Championships would not be an easy one for either.


World Ranking:

Currently, Sindhu is fourth and has a career-best of second rank. Okuhara is now perched at 12th having slipped from a career-high third.


Age:

Both are 22


Road to the final:

PV Sindhu

First Round - Bye

Second Round - Beat Kim Hyo Min, 21-16, 21-14

Third Round - Beat (13) Cheung Ngan Yi, 19-21, 23-21, 21-17

Quarter-finals: Beat (5) Sun Yu, 21-14, 21-9

Semi-finals: Beat (9) Chen Yufei, 21-13, 21-10


Nozomi Okuhara

First Round - Bye

Second Round - Beat Rachel Honderich, 21-10, 17-21, 21-7

Third Round - Beat (11) Aya Ohori, 22-20, 21-15

Quarter-finals - Beat (3) Carolina Marin, 21-18, 14-21, 21-15

Semi-finals - Beat (12) Saina Nehwal, 12-21, 21-17, 21-10


Analysis:

This will be a game of contrasting styles. While Sindhu’s forte is all-out attack, Okuhara’s ability to prolong rallies and wear opponents out is her strongest point.

The latter was obvious in the semi-finals where the Japanese absolutely sapped all energy out of Saina Nehwal who pretty much looked fatigued and listless mid-way through the third game. One of the rallies in that match was a 39-shot one which gives a fair warning to Sindhu that she will have to be prepared for gruelling rallies.

The former All England Championships winner lost a couple of months to recuperate from a shoulder injury that she sustained towards the end of last year. She took some time to get back to her rhythm and by June, Okuhara had started looking the force she once used to be which culminated in her Australian Open title win.

It is not a surprise that she has looked very inspired throughout the week, refusing to bow down even in the face of adversity.

That said, for Okuhara, the two back-to-back laborious three-game matches that she played in the quarters and the semis at the World Championships could have its toll.

And PV Sindhu needs to capitalize on any kind of sluggishness she gets to see to puncture the defensive wall of her opponent. The Indian, on the other hand, had two of her easiest matches in the quarters and semis that should have bolstered her confidence even further.

Her attack had been top notch in her last two matches, a thorough example of which the India Open champion gave in the semi-final, leaving the 19-year-old Chen Yufei shell-shocked. It was a picture of utter ruthlessness and determination.

However, she cannot expect to bulldoze into Okuhara in a similar fashion whose superb defence and solid net game are a cause of a headache for whoever faces the Japanese.

Just like she did at Rio one year ago, Sindhu will need to be patient to find the corners. Her retrieval skills and speed have been noteworthy in all her matches and she needs to bring them forth to set up her attack.

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