Sindhu: ‘Defeating Marin is special’

“There is no way I can afford to relax after winning a major tournament, given the fact that there is very little gap between the top 10 woman badminton players in the world,” says Pusarla Venkata Sindhu, the winner of the India Open.

P. V. Sindhu chats with Olympic champion Carolina Marin during a press conference ahead of the India Open. The two are good friends off the court. “We have a very healthy respect for each other,” says Sindhu.   -  PTI

Change, they say, is the only thing that is constant. It is the case with the Rio Olympics silver medal winner, Pusarla Venkata Sindhu, too. The champion player, fresh from her triumph in the India Open, says one has to keep evolving with the times to stay at the top.

“There is no way I can afford to relax after winning a major tournament, given the fact that there is very little gap between the top 10 woman badminton players in the world,” Sindhu says.

“Anyone can beat anyone. So, you have to keep evolving with each tournament. And once you figure in that elite category, you should be aware that you are also one of the most studied players. With the advanced technology available today, it actually makes things easy for the support staff to sort out the strengths and weaknesses (of a player),” she explains while speaking to Sportstar from Singapore.

A jubilant P. V. Sindhu after defeating Carolina Marin of Spain in the women’s singles final of the Yonex-Sunrise India Open in New Delhi recently.   -  PTI

 

“Winning the India Open gave me immense satisfaction. It came in front of the home crowd, and mind you, it is never easy to play when they are so passionate and longing for you to win the title,” says Sindhu, who got the better of the Olympic champion, Carolina Marin of Spain, in the women’s singles final in New Delhi recently.

“Honestly, I don’t look at the victory as some sort of a revenge win, as many make it out to be. We are the best of friends off the court, sharing a lot of things in life. We have a very healthy respect for each other,” says the 21-year-old champion from Hyderabad.

“But beating someone like Marin in a championship final (Sindhu had beaten Marin in a group match of the Dubai BWF Super Series Finals in December last year) is something really special. It gives that extra sense of achievement when you win against such a quality player,” says Sindhu.

According to Sindhu, in Delhi she was at her best throughout the tournament, beating top players such as Saina Nehwal and Sung Ji-hyun before vanquishing Carolina Marin in the final.

“There were some big wins after the silver in Rio, like the China Open — which is never easy given the playing conditions and the vociferous crowd — and the Syed Modi International Grand Prix, but India Open stands out as it also happens to be my second Super Series title,” she says.

Brushing aside the disappointment of a first-round defeat to unseeded Chinese girl Chen Yufei in the Malaysian Open, immediately after her India Open triumph, Sindhu gracefully acknowledges that her opponent played better on that day. These are the kinds of setbacks any athlete goes through, she adds.

“There is no guarantee that you are going to win every title. All that we athletes try is to give more than 100 per cent. You cannot find fault with me for lack of commitment. Yes, there will be off days when things don’t fall in place. It was one of those days at the Malaysian Open,” she explains.

“Not many would be aware that the drift factor was too much to handle there,” says Sindhu, but clarifies that she doesn’t want to offer that as an excuse.

What are the big changes that she sees in herself now?

“Personally, I am the same normal girl, friendly, respectful and always caring for my fellow players and trying to be good to anyone whom I meet. These are the traits that I learnt from my parents and they will never leave me.

“Well, in terms of my game, I think I am a much improved player now. More confident and not giving too many easy points,” says Sindhu.

As for her targets, Sindhu says, “Honestly, I am thrilled to be the World No. 2 (she became No. 2 after her India Open triumph). I was only targeting that by this season-end.

“Yes, to be the World No. 1 is another big dream I am chasing, and I am confident of achieving it too.

“Frankly, I don’t feel any pressure because of the expectations. I look at it the other way — how many athletes have the privilege of being among the best in the business and raising the aspirations of millions of fans every time they enter the playing arena?

“I have got used to all these things. The more important thing is to keep improving. That is an on-going process and I am really grateful to Gopi Sir for all the wonderful support and guidance he has given me in order to see that I stay at the top.” For someone who has won medals in the World Championships (she won the bronze twice) and the Olympics besides claiming a few Super Series titles, what is it that motivates her to keep going? “The passion for the sport and the intense desire to be a better player with each passing day,” Sindhu says.

Do rankings really matter?

“Yes, to a certain extent, though they are not the end. These kind of things spur you on to dream bigger and sustain your level of excellence for longer periods,” says Sindhu. “That’s why I am targeting the World No.1 ranking, which is one of my big dreams now.

“The World Championship gold is another major goal I have set for myself,” she adds.

Talking of the emergence of players other than the Chinese on the circuit, Sindhu says, “It is good for the sport that there are so many non-Chinese players on the circuit who are posing serious challenges to the best in the business. And this is what makes the game so intense and competitive.”

Post Rio Olympics, life has been very busy for Sindhu. “Hectic, definitely. But you have to take this in your stride. Time management — between training and taking care of off-the-court engagements — is one thing that is superbly taken care of by Gopi Sir.

“In fact, we plan these things in such a way that I don’t end up missing too many practice sessions, as necessary arrangements are in place for me to train wherever I go for these non-badminton activities,” says Sindhu.