PV Sindhu had last met Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara in the final of the World Championship in Glasgow last month. It was an epic counter that ended in favour of the Japanese. On Sunday, Sindhu exacted revenge for that loss, beating Okuhara 22-20 11-21 20-18. Sindhu, though, said that her previous match up against Okuhara was not on her mind. “I had lost to her after being 19-17 in the World Championship but I didn’t keep that in my mind even though there were long rallies,” Sindhu told reporters after the end of the match in Seoul, “I kept telling myself next point is important. I had to control the shuttle very much, so there was nothing in my mind.”
Sindhu had won a closely fought first game but Okuhara came back strong in the second. The third was one in which the Indian managed to pull away towards the end. “I’m playing her again after playing in the World Championship and each point was very exhausting,” said the current world no. 4, “In the first game, we were equal at 20-20 and I changed the course and won the game. In the second game all were going out, I couldn’t control the shuttle. It was a huge lead even if I would have tried so I lost easy. In the third game, each and every point was important, even though I was leading at 11 points she came back and after 11 points, every point were big rallies like the World Championship and nobody was leaving.”
Sindhu and Okuhara are currently enjoying a good run of form and the possibility of them facing each other in the final of the Japan Super Series Premier is being discussed. Asked if she would play rather someone else in the finals, Sindhu said, “It is nothing like that, anybody is fine. It is the second time immediately after the World Championship that I am playing her in a final. Even earlier everybody used to say it would be Carolina Marin but now they are saying may be it would be Okuhara again at Japan but I guess you have to play one or the other and you have to beat them to win.”
Chief National coach Pullela Gopichand said Sindhu worked on her attacking game ahead of the Korea Open and playing well in the remaining super series events will be important before she could think of Dubai Super Series Final in December. “We prepared a bit on the attacking side, not that we had a great amount of time but we tried to cover the mistakes that she committed at Glasgow in whatever time we had to prepare for Korea,” Gopichand is quoted as saying by PTI, “I think there is Japan next week which is a Premier Super Series, there is Denmark, France, China and Hong Kong. It is important that we focus on one at a time before the year-ender at Dubai final.”
Asked if World No. 1 is one of the main targets for Sindhu, Gopichand said: “At 22 she has many years of badminton in her and if she can continue playing she will reach there someday. It is important she recovers well and plays the next tournament. I am not too worried about that, I guess we need to take it one by one,” he added.
Ecstatic after Sindhu’s win, her father Ramana said: “After the world championship she was upset and luckily she could come out of it. One good thing is that Sindhu enjoys playing and so she doesn’t get tired when she is practising.
“It is a good match today. Just like the last time it was anybody’s game. Sindhu was comfortable in the third game after winning but first game was anybody’s game,” he said.
Asked if he gives her any tips before tournaments, Ramana said: “Physical fitness wise I give her some tips. Even before the match she speaks to me. I was watching the Okuhara match the other day at the World Championship, she was hitting down the line towards the backhand side of Sindhu and then coming onto the net very fast.
“So today I told her, she should keep the shuttle at the back side sometimes, so that she should be in a dilemma whether she will be giving at the back or front and that strategy worked. She was only blocking at World Championship, the shuttle was also slow at Glasgow but it was fast here, so she could smash sometimes.
“Drift was a problem so small pushes were also going out, especially in the second game, she lost control. Anyways finally she could win and making a name for her country,” he added.
Sindhu looked exhausted as she fell on the court a couple of times after the intense rallies even though Okuhara seemed more at ease during the final.
“The Japanese was also tired, I’m happy that Sindhu was pretending and playing like this,” said Ramana, a former volleyball player, who has a 1986 Asian Games bronze medal as part of the India team.
“Of course for Sindhu it is difficult because of her height since she was bending a lot. But back-to-back tournaments and Sindhu didn’t had much time as she had some assignments, functions but she could manage it and I’m happy,” he added.