‘A medal is a medal’

BACK-TO-BACK BRONZE MEDALS. P. V. Sindhu of India in action against Carolina Marin of Spain in the women's singles semifinals of the World Championship in Copenhagen. Sindhu, who lost to Marin, played down the talk of pressure in the match. Coach Gopi Chand (below) wasn't disappointed with the performance of Sindhu in the Worlds.-AP BACK-TO-BACK BRONZE MEDALS. P. V. Sindhu of India in action against Carolina Marin of Spain in the women's singles semifinals of the World Championship in Copenhagen. Sindhu, who lost to Marin, played down the talk of pressure in the match. Coach Gopi Chand (below) wasn't disappointed with the performance of Sindhu in the Worlds.

Considering P. V. Sindhu’s immense talent and her ability to beat the best in the world, her defeat to Carolina Marin of Spain in the semifinals of the World Championship was a disappointment. Was the pressure of playing in a big event too much for the Indian? Not many think so. By V. V. Subrahmanyam.

After Pusarla Venkata Sindhu defeated the reigning All England champion, Shixian Wang of China, 19-21, 21-19, 21-15, in the quarterfinals of the 2014 World Championship in Copenhagen, her mother P. Vijaya’s reaction was spontaneous. “Let us see how Sindhu recovers from the two gruelling matches she has played. That is a bit of a concern for us,” said the former India volleyball player, in response to a courtesy call to pass on good wishes to Sindhu for her brilliant quarterfinal victory.

Vijaya’s words, in a way, were prophetic, as the following day Sindhu was at the receiving end of a high quality display from the European champion, Carolina Marin of Spain, in the singles semifinals. The Indian lost in straight games, 17-21, 15-21.

No doubt, Sindhu’s second consecutive singles bronze medal in the World Championship is a remarkable achievement. But faltering once again in the semifinals is a disappointment given the fact that the 19-year-old is immensely talented, and has the ability to beat the best in the world.

Some still believe that if Sindhu were to take on Marin once again in any other event, the story could be different.

So, does it mean that the pressure factor is a bit too much for Sindhu in a World Championship?

“I don’t think so. However, I knew it was not going to be easy. You have to fight for every point, from the start to finish. There are no easy points to win,” explained Sindhu, a day after her disappointing defeat in the semifinals.

“Yes, I must confess that I committed quite a few silly mistakes. At this level, they are just inexcusable. When I look back, I realise I should not have conceded the lead, especially in the second game,” she said.

When asked to rate her two World Championship medals, Sindhu, who dedicated the bronze she won this year to her parents and coach Pullela Gopi Chand, said: “A medal is a medal in a World Championship — they don’t come easily. Both are very satisfying. Honestly, I am delighted with my performance. No doubt, it would have been great if it were a higher medal, but you must remember that Carolina played a brilliant game that evening.”

Gopi too wasn’t disappointed with Sindhu’s performance. “If you look at the way she has played, it was terrific, especially beating the World No. 2 in the quarterfinals. By coincidence, it was the same Chinese player whom she had beaten in the last World Championship to ensure a bronze medal,” he said.

“While making a critical analysis of Sindhu’s weaknesses in the semifinals, let us not forget that Carolina played an exceptional game, never giving the shuttle the flight for Sindhu to go for those big smashes. And her net game was brilliant too, forcing Sindhu to make some crucial errors,” Gopi added.

“Well, pressure is there in any international event. Definitely, a World Championship has its own aura. But I don’t think that was the only reason for Sindhu’s semifinal loss. It was a combination of factors. I don’t want to go into the details, but I would definitely correct the minor aberrations to ensure that Sindhu doesn’t repeat some of the mistakes she made in the Worlds,” the former All England champion said.

However, Dronacharya S. M. Arif, who first saw Sindhu play when she was an under-10 at the Fateh Maidan Indoor Stadium in Hyderabad, had a different opinion. “For any great player, it is challenging to recover from two gruelling matches and be ready for the third (the semifinal). Just remember, Sindhu’s two previous matches lasted 71 and 86 minutes respectively. It was a very tough call — mentally and physically. If only she had a little more stamina, Sindhu, perhaps, would have been a different player. And she needs the experience to decide when to attack. I think she was a bit too late on the shuttle in the semifinals,” he pointed out.

“Sindhu’s strong points are her attacking game and her height that she normally uses very effectively. But then, a World Championship is bound to be different. Remember, even Wang gave away the game after leading 16-12 at one stage against Sindhu in the quarterfinals. If that can happen to a Chinese, it is understandable in Sindhu’s case,” Arif explained.

“It is still a great achievement by Sindhu to win back-to-back bronze medals. I think she will be a much better player if she puts in greater effort on strengthening her legs and focuses on a quick recovery process at the world level,” he added.

India’s badminton legend Prakash Padukone was all praise for Sindhu. “A creditable performance; winning back-to-back bronze in a World Championship is not an easy task considering Sindhu is still young. Definitely, she should aim to better her performance in the Worlds. She has a bright future,” he remarked.

Sindhu’s father P. V. Ramana, former India volleyball player and Arjuna Award winner, has a different perspective. “What I feel is that we train very little against left-handers of that class (Carolina is a left-hander) in the camps. That might have been a minus for Sindhu,” he said.

“It is a different proposition at this level, where there is very little scope for errors. But hats off to Carolina, she played like a champion,” said Ramana.

It is apparent that Sindhu is clearly growing in stature (she is the only Indian to win back-to-back medals in singles in the World Championship). This, despite the fact that the focus has mostly been on the more popular and senior pro, Saina Nehwal.