Sindhu’s surge

P.V. Sindhu of India celebrates a point during her singles match against Wang Shixian of China at the World Championships in Guangzhou. Her victories against Shixian and defending champion, Wang Yihan, on way to winning the bronze medal at the Worlds was proof of Sindhu’s ability to take on the best in the world.-

Having won the Malaysian Open and the Macau Open Gold Grand Prix, apart from the bronze medal at the World Championship, the 18-year-old P. V. Sindhu has every reason to feel immensely pleased with her performance in 2013. By V.V. Subrahmanyam.

A lot was expected of Saina Nehwal in 2013, but the London Olympics bronze medal winner finished the year without a single title to her name. On the other hand, it was Pusarla Venkata Sindhu, a training partner of Saina at the Pullela Gopi Chand Academy, who repeatedly sent out reminders that she is now a force to reckon with at the highest level with some inspiring performances.

Having won the Malaysian Open and the Macau Open Gold Grand Prix, the 18-year-old player from Hyderabad has every reason to feel immensely pleased with her performance in 2013 even as she prepares for the challenges in 2014. Besides, Sindhu also became the first-ever Indian woman player to win a singles medal (bronze) at the World Championship. She was later conferred the prestigious Arjuna Award.

Sindhu’s amazing results against the defending champion, Wang Yihan, and former World No. 1 Wang Shixian on way to winning the bronze medal at the World Championship was proof — if one was required — of her ability to take on the best.

No doubt, Sindhu struggled and failed to get past the second round at the Japan Open, Denmark Open, French Open and the Hong Kong Open after her remarkable showing at the World Championship. But a clever move by her mentor and chief national coach Gopi Chand, who suggested Sindhu take a break, did the trick. She missed the China Open, but was fresh for the Macau Open.

“This (the break) paid off really well, for I was more focussed and determined. I could not have asked for a better finish to the year,” Sindhu said.

Like Saina, Sindhu is not scared of taking on strong opponents, including the big names from China. “I believe that at the highest level rankings don’t matter. It all depends on how well you prepare and execute your plans, and also how focussed you are on a given day,” she said.

Once she got past the Chinese girl, Jinjing Qin, in the semi-finals of the Macau Open, the top-seeded Indian had a relatively easy time in the final.

Despite a hectic schedule in 2013, which also saw Sindhu play for Awadhe Warriors in the high-profile Indian Badminton League, she never ceased planning for the big events in 2014, including the two Super Series tournaments in Korea (January 8-13) and Malaysia (January 15-20) and the Incheon Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games. This perhaps shows how meticulous she is in her planning.

Sindhu has every reason to dream big — of becoming the World No. 1 one day. According to her, the World Championship bronze is only the beginning.

Sindhu, with the guidance of Gopi, is extremely careful with the number of tournaments she plays in order to avoid fatigue.

Clearly, Sindhu’s success story should inspire many middle-class children to take up badminton.

Springing a surprise

The triumph of a relatively unknown player Kidambi Srikanth at the Thailand Open Grand Prix was another major success for India. The 20-year-old, a product of the Gopi Chand Academy, defeated the top seed and crowd favourite, Boonsak Ponsana, on way to the title.

Interestingly, on the same day, Srikanth’s brother Kidambi Nandagopal, playing alongside K. Maneesha, won the mixed doubles title at the Maldives Open.

The Asian Youth Championship underlined India’s emergence as a badminton power in Asia. India bagged the titles in the Under-15 (singles) and Under-17 (doubles) categories to end the tournament with two gold and two bronze medals in Kudus (Indonesia).

Fourteen-year-old Alluri Sri Sai Siril Varma of Hyderabad registered a 21-11, 21-17 victory over local favourite Putra Gatja in the boys Under-15 final before the top-seeded doubles pair of M. R. Arjun and Chirag Shetty defeated the Thai duo, Mak Narongrit and Kantaphon Wangcharoen, 21-16, 21-15 to claim the Under-17 title.

Bangalore’s Daniel Farid (boys’ Under-17 singles) and Garga Krishna Prasad and Shreya Bose (Under-15 mixed doubles) won bronze medals.