Sindhu bests Marin in India Open final

Buoyed by a boisterous crowd, P. V. Sindhu beat the top-seed Carolina Marin 21-19, 21-16 to win her maiden India Open title.

P. V. Sindhu won her maiden India Open title.   -  AFP

The prayers of a near-capacity crowd at the Siri Fort Stadium stood answered. Facing match-point, Olympic champion Carolina Marin netted a return. For 47 minutes, chants of “Sindhu… Sindhu” that periodically rented the air, turned into a roar when the crowd favourite raised her hands in triumph and let go a scream for one last time.

The reward for P. V. Sindhu was more than just a first Yonex India Open title.

Everyone interested in this Carolina-Sindhu clash had the result of the Rio Olympic final in mind. Though Sindhu had avenged the defeat in Dubai last December, many came to see their favourite settle a score. Sindhu’s 21-19, 21-16 victory was a reinforcement of a growing belief that she is on an upward curve.

The confidence gained since that silver-winning week in Rio Olympics is slowly becoming a part of Sindhu’s persona. The way she is carrying herself on the court, the rise in self-esteem after successfully dealing with most pressure-points and the ability to gauge the deception in Carolina’s play increasingly well, all added up to give the Indian a memorable victory.

Sindhu, ranked fifth in the world, enjoyed the best week of her career, having beaten Saina Nehwal, Sung Ju Hyun and Carolina, ranked eighth, fourth and third, in that order.

This was only the second super series title for Sindhu to go with the China Open last November.

Given the fact that these players faced-off for the ninth time, with Carolina winning five times, Sindhu needed no reminding the importance of staying ahead, even by a point, to keep the pressure on her rival.

As it turned out, Sindhu was never in any serious threat of losing the match. In fact, after dropping the opening point, Sindhu conceded lead only twice in the first game– at 17-18 and 18-19 – but more importantly, won the last three points to seal the game. Psychologically, this proved a massive blow and dictated the course of the match.

In the second, much like the deciding game in the semifinal against Korean’s Sung Ju Hyun on Saturday, Sindhu jumped to a 4-0 lead and never trailed again.

Both players agreed that the closing points of the first game was the decisive phase of the match.

“At 19-19 it was anybody’s game but I won the points after that. It is difficult to say what could have happened had she taken the first game. That’s the way it goes,” said Sindhu.

On her part, Carolina said, “I played those last few points very badly. It was great for the spectators but not for me. In the second, I could not play as well as she did.”

On this day, it was all credit to Sindhu’s ability to execute her game-plan really well. She did not allow Carolina’s deceptive over-head forehands to dictate the rallies. Sindhu managed to keep Carolina’s backhand busy and was way better at the net. Though the percentage of unforced errors was quite high in the match, Sindhu showed she was mentally stronger on the big points.

“I am really happy the crowd cheered both of us and they enjoyed themselves” said Sindhu after collecting $24,375 for her week’s work.

Carolina, richer by $12,350, said, “I am very happy with the way I played this week. Last year, my goal was to win the Olympics, which I won. I don’t care if I have not won any super series after that. My back injury also stopped me from playing more but after this week, I am confident of doing well in weeks to come.”

Earlier, third seed Viktor Axelsen won as expected against Chinese Taipei’s Chou Tien Chen in straight games. The pairs from Indonesia, Japan and China claimed the doubles titles.


RESULTS (prefix denotes seeding)

Men: 3-Viktor Axelsen (Den) bt 7-Chou Tien Chen (Tpe) 21-13, 21-10.
Women: 3-P. V. Sindhu bt 1-Carolina Marin (Esp) 21-19, 21-16.
Men's doubles: 4-Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (Ina) bt 6-Ricky Karandasuwardi and Angga Pratama 21-11, 21-15.
Women's doubles: 7-Shijo Tanaka and Koharu Yonemoto (Jpn) bt 3-Naoko Fukuman and Kurumi Yonao (Jpn) 16-21, 21-19, 21-10.
Mixed doubles: 2-Lu Kai and Huang Yaqiong (Chn) bt 1-Zheng Siwei and Chen Quigchen (Chn) 22-24, 21-14, 21-17

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