PV Sindhu, finally learning to win!

I will cherish this tag of a ‘World Champion’ for long. For not many are privileged to be in this position. I am looking forward to many more wins.

Many thronged to give the champion a warm welcome in New Delhi.   -  PTI

Some things never change. Like the 24-year-old champion badminton player P. V. Sindhu’s humility despite being the newly-crowned world champion. She continues to sport that disarming smile and spreads a touch of warmth, still easily approachable.

Sindhu, however, would prefer to keep such traits off the court. For, once on it, she transports herself into a different world. Ask Nozomi Okuhara of Japan whom Sindhu outclassed in the women’s singles final of the 2019 World Championship in Basel (Switzerland)!

How was your mood before this World Championship? You had lost two finals — 2017 and 2018 — both close encounters...

First, the kind of preparations I had this time around were completely different, especially on the fitness front thanks to my trainer Srikanth. That was the big difference and it really helped me a lot physically for there was rarely any moment when I felt down. There was some sort of freshness in the body even when I was engaged in long rallies.

Do you believe that Akane Yamaguchi bowing out early made things easier?

With due regards to her, one must remember that I played well to beat the others, including the seemingly unbeatable Tai Tzu-ying in the quarterfinal. It is not a joke as she has dominated almost everyone in the recent past. And, not just that, the way I reached the final was important.

So, beating Tai Tzu was the turning point of the championship?

Well, in terms of confidence, I was a different player after that match or a much better one I can say when I look back. This is quite natural once you beat such a big player and in sport no one is unbeatable over a long stretch.

Long-time coach Pullella Gopichand has played a huge role in Sindhu’s success.   -  AFP

 

In the semifinal, you defeated the reigning All-England champion Chen Yufei and it was a clinical destruction again...

Yes, that’s what I am trying to say. It has been a truly brilliant World championship from my side. I played a near-perfect game consistently right through the championship which is not easy at that level.

You have said that you approached the final just like any other match. How challenging was it?

I must say this was a result of the month-long preparations and the kind of team work that we had. I have to thank the women’s coach Kim (Korean Kim Ji Hyun), Gopi Anna (chief national coach P. Gopichand) and the entire support staff. Definitely, mentally — thanks to meditation classes — and physically, I was at my best in this Worlds.

You have two bronzes (2013 & 2014), two silvers (2017 and 2018) and finally the gold in 2019 in the Worlds. It is an amazing feat...

Well, every medal is special and every time I looked back, I always dreamt of changing the colour. So, I am glad that finally I put my hands on the gold and created history.

READ | Indian badminton's golden girl

How is it working with Kim Ji Hyun, who says that she enjoys a special bond with you?

Obviously, I cannot disclose what exactly we tried differently but yes, there were many areas we worked on and will continue to work on. I must say it is an ongoing process and no one can be a complete player. She has been really great.

Did you play your best badminton in recent memory, especially in the final against Okuhara?

I think, yes. What gives me great satisfaction is that I cut down on the negatives and never really let Okuhara come back into the match once I took the early lead in both the games. Mind you, it is never easy against such a formidable opponent. I won’t say it was a deliberate ploy to attack her. But I ensured that once I got the upper-hand, I did not let her engage me in long rallies. She is so popular for this and did so when she beat me in the 2017 final.

You were a silver medallist in the 2016 Rio Olympics. How important is this World Championship gold as you plan your schedule ahead of the 2020 Tokyo Games?

Frankly, it is time to leave behind what I achieved in the Worlds. Yes, I will continue to enjoy what is arguably one of the finest moments of my career. But again, you can’t keep harping only on that. You have to keep looking forward, improving to keep winning more titles.

Having achieved almost everything in your career, the focus will now be on the Olympics gold?

Why not? That is the ultimate target now. And, it is not going to be easy as Gopi Anna said I would be a more ‘marked’ player in Tokyo. Consequently, the preparations too should be on a different level (within two days of arrival from Basel, Sindhu was with her fitness trainer Srikanth at the Suchitra Academy, following a schedule which she credits for her latest success).

Do you believe that there can be improvements in your game despite the gold in the Worlds?

Well, these are things which we have to keep working on. As I said you have to keep strategising for every two minutes once on the court against different players with different styles. Or else, you will be left behind. Kim knows what kinds of preparations I need to realise my goal and hopefully we will continue to work towards that.

Sindhu meets the Vice-President, M. Venkaiah Naidu, along with her parents. Sindhu says that her parents have taught her to be humble, all the time.   -  PTI

 

How do you look at the women’s singles competition?

As I often say, there is very little difference amongst the top 10 in the world. On any given day anyone can beat the other. So, it is all about giving your best over five days in a championship to emerge the winner. I believe consistency is the key and that can only be achieved by hours of training and desire to keep improving. I cannot be complacent and sit on the laurels. The challenges are going to be different and difficult and I will work hard to face them.

What impact do you expect your gold in the Worlds will have on Indian badminton?

Definitely more and more players will come into the sport. But, I appeal to all the young talent to chase their goals by working really hard as nothing comes easily — be it in life or in sport. Well, the fact that badminton is the second most popular sport after cricket in India (reminds one of the kind of TV viewership her Rio Olympics final had), I hope we will see more and more champions. But it not going to be easy.

You are so humble despite achieving so much...

I must thank my parents (Arjuna Awardee P. V. Ramana and P. Vijaya — both former India volleyball players) for this. They always tell me to be grounded irrespective of whether I am on a high or going through a lean phase. They also emphasise on the importance of sportsmanship. After all in sport one has to win and the other lose.

Your final reflections on the World Championship gold as you move on...

Well, That final phobia, which the critics harped on in the recent past, should be put to rest now. The long wait to be a World champion has finally ended though the celebrations were never really on because of the hectic schedule immediately after the final. But, I will cherish this tag of a ‘World Champion’ for long for sure. For not many are privileged to be in this position. But I must say this is not the end of it all. I am looking forward to many more wins.