It’s for the second time in two months that PV Sindhu has allowed a player to get under her skin — twice in quick succession. And after losing a place in the Commonwealth Games final, that itchy irritation that some players are capable of causing the Indian’s mind repeatedly, has now cost Sindhu a berth in the final of the World Championships. At both times, she’ll need to stay content with a bronze, albeit a creditable second in two years, for the teenager.
Like a bad rash breaking out suddenly, Spaniard Carolina Marin returned to trouble Sindhu two months after the European champion had caught her out on her low defence at the Australian Super Series. At the CWG, Canadian Michelle Li had gotten stuck into the Hyderabadi, handing her two consecutive losses in team and individual events within days of each other. But this one against Marin would hurt more, given Sindhu had gotten here the hard way — beating Chinese World No. 2 in the quarters.
Marin is badminton’s wildly talented and even more wildly temperamental European, who is known as much for her pugnacious presence on the court as for her fantastically effective efforts to annoy opponents — a piercing screech here and refusal to pick the shuttle and pass it to the opponents there. That coupled with a starkly awkward game from the left-hander left Sindhu with a bruising 21-17, 21-15 defeat, even as she failed to break the 22-year-old Spanish girl’s bratty rhythm.
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Warding off the challenge
Perhaps, being a brat cannot be taught, and Marin who doused every fiery comeback that Sindhu attempted in the two games, staying peskily close in scores before breaking away towards the end, knew precisely how to strangle Sindhu’s challenge with a wicked grin. She could be said to have gotten inside Sindhu’s head last August when she handed her drubbings in the Indian Badminton League. But at the Worlds it was also a furious pace she employed to rush her stunned opponent.
In a fierce battle between two attacking players, the furious back-and-forths accompanied by screams to match from both, Sindhu had to contend with the awkward angles that the left-handed Carolina Marin was dishing out. It wasn’t for want of trying, and Sindhu collected a flurry in the opener to go from 2-6 down to 8-6 up.
But Marin who uses the court in its entirety – the attacking clears to the back and the persistence in net exchanges alongside a deceptive cross-court game to the middle of the court – wouldn’t allow another opening to the Indian. Astute and assured at the net, she would regularly trap Sindhu at the net and broke away after levelling at 9-9 to create a gap at 15-10, from where the Indian couldn’t match up to lose the first 21-17.
A hustler, a busybody and deviously tricky in her shots, the southpaw Spaniard kept Sindhu under the pump, while keeping a lid on her own mercurial nature. Out-screaming her was never going to help, and what Sindhu perhaps needed was to slow down the pace and test her patience, since she’s prone to be combustible and implode – something used brilliantly by compatriot Saina Nehwal when she took the sting out of her by playing calmly in the Australian final.
Till 13-13 in the second, things stayed even as they traded winners, but the first-game deficit and Marin’s stubbornness seemed to be bogging down the Indian for whom déjà vu of previous matches against same player looks like working when she’s winning, as well as when she starts staring at a loss.
Marin continued to play the gritty game at the net racing to a 19-15 lead, her left-handed deft touches creating some unplayable deflections, but it was only because Sindhu allowed her to while forced to forget all about her own big smash. A couple of net cords going Sindhu’s way were teases as she allowed the plucky Spaniard to get the better of her.
It’s perhaps in matches where Sindhu is fancied to win — against the Canadian and this one — that pressure fogs her clarity and clams her up in a body-bind. With nothing to lose, like against the much-higher ranked Chinese in the quarters, Sindhu is scoring unexpected shock-wins. It’s the regulation course where she seems to falter. This time, it cost her a sure silver.