After the 109-minute marathon that was the World Championship final in Glasgow, P.V. Sindhu, the vanquished, plunged into an advertisement board. The victor, Nozomi Okuhara, stood motionless near the edge of court. It was that kind of a nerve-sapping test of physical forbearance and mental courage that by the end, neither the victor nor the vanquished had any energy left, to mourn or to celebrate. The badminton world collectively crowed: A classic for the ages, a bona fide hall of fame entrant. That could hardly console Sindhu, but should she show the same levels of improvement, endurance, tactical flexibility and grit, soon rather than later, she could upgrade the runners-up trophies and silver medals into something more glittering.
Somewhere down the line will arise the opportunity to avenge her defeat against Okuhara, too. The disparity between them was marginal in Glasgow. The Japanese player is not like Carolina Marin, arguably the most consummate player of the generation, who has a plethora of attacking strokes and dead-eye winners in her repertoire. Okuhara’s deception is the simplicity of her strategies — there’s nothing breathtaking or awe-inspiring, but a simple game with unflagging stamina and aggression. It’s this plainness that stunned Marin and Sindhu and Saina Nehwal. Saina, in fact, seemed to be making short work of her in the semifinal. She had comfortably won the first game, before Okuhara’s in-your-face aggression perturbed her, and once the contest acquired the hue of an endurance battle, there was only one winner. And it wasn’t the injury-ravaged Saina.
Nonetheless, it was a gratifying championship from an Indian perspective. Even if the men flattered to deceive, there’s still Saina and Sindhu, the former throwing enough signs of a second wind and the latter offering the promise of being India’s best-ever shuttler. Even without a gold, it can be said that this is Indian badminton’s Golden Era.