BWF World Championships: Okuhara came to fight, Sindhu didn't let her

Sindhu's approach was truly fascinating when it mattered. For the first time, the badminton world saw this soft-spoken Indian let her aggression do the talking. And how.

The final, against Nozomi Okuhara, lasted just 36 minutes and Sindhu emerged a 21-7, 21-7 winner.   -  getty images

By becoming India’s first world champion in badminton, P. V. Sindhu made history. That too, in great style. Armed with two bronze medals and a runner-up finish in the last two editions, Sindhu was hungry for gold. But none expected her to decimate her rivals at the business end.

Her approach was truly fascinating when it mattered. For the first time, the badminton world saw this soft-spoken Indian let her aggression do the talking. And how.

The final, against Nozomi Okuhara, lasted just 36 minutes and Sindhu emerged a 21-7, 21-7 winner. For once, the scoreline aptly reflected the gap between the performing levels of the players on the day.

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A close battle was expected by those who remembered the epic clash in the 2017 World championship final where Okuhara won the a pulsating decider at 22-20! Even the head-to-head record stood at 8-7 in favour of Sindhu, who defeated Okuhara 21-14, 21-7 in their previous encounter on way to this year’s Indonesia Open final.

The script began with Okuhara taking the first point. Thereafter, it was Sindhu all the way. Sindhu established leads of 8-1 and 16-2 to flatten the diminutive Japanese, ranked fourth and a place above the lanky Indian.

Even in the second game, leads of 9-2 and 16-4 for Sindhu firmly ended any possibility of a fightback from Okuhara. Eventually, Sindhu won her third successive game at 21-7 against the former World champion.

But how could two classy players dish out such a one-sided battle on the big stage? The answer to this question lies in the precision with which Sindhu executed her plans and left Okuhara increasingly exasperated.

No doubt, Okuhara came to fight. But Sindhu just did not let her. Knowing that Okuhara excels in the toss-and-drop game-plan, Sindhu ensured her rival was kept on the move. Okuhara, known to set up points with the help of deft flicks and soft drops, found it tough to gauge the power of Sindhu.

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Sindhu chose not to engage her rival in the high-toss routine. She kept varying the length of her returns and attacked on both flanks at the first available opportunity. Once Sindhu believed that Okuhara’s anticipation on the backhand flank was repeatedly letting her down, she attacked with some furious forehand down the line smashes. More often than not, the ploy worked. Either Okuhara failed to return or sent back weak responses, leaving Sindhu with an easy ‘kill’.

On this day, what left Okuhara truly baffled was Sindhu’s ability to mix her forehand cross-court returns with steady push to all corners. But what clearly stood out was Sindhu’s use of power in finishing off the points. All this reflected in her body language, loud and clear.

This week, Sindhu produced her best performance of the year and truly proved a worthy World champion. What more, since 2020 is an Olympic year, Sindhu gets to keep her title for an extra year before defending it in 2021!