It seemed a no-contest right from the start. PV Sindhu, the world number 11, taking on Anna Rankin, ranked 82. There was no sign of coach Pullela Gopichand as Sindhu warmed up.
Gopichand ambled in almost 15 minutes later, with the first game almost at its conclusion. By the time he ambled back just 10 minutes later, Sindhu had finished off New Zealand’s Rankin, 21-10, 21-9, without breaking a sweat.
India’s badminton challenge at the Emirates Arena has not really gotten off to the best of starts. Finishing fourth in the mixed-team event, a category where India pocketed the silver medal four years ago, has played on the minds of the players, according to Sindhu.
“Yes, it has been quite difficult. It was frustrating for me, personally, because against England, I didn’t even get a chance to play. But now, all my energies are focussed on the singles. The start has been really good and I am looking forward to getting India a medal,” she says.
Following her victory against Rankin, Sindhu will play Canada’s Michelle Li, ranked number 19 in the world, for a spot in the gold-medal match. The 19-year old is making her first appearance at the Commonwealth Games.
“The first three matches have been quite good. I have managed to work on my game quite a bit. Also, the relatively easy nature of the matches allows me to experiment. I have tried out a few things that I have been working on and I think they have served me well,” she says.
Saina Nehwal, the defending Commonwealth Champion is not participating in the event and Sindhu is expected to spearhead India’s charge in the women’s singles event.
In the men’s event, Parupalli Kashyap advanced to the semi-finals, defeating Malaysia’s Daren Liew 21-13, 21-14. The Malayasian, coming off an extended injury break, hardly troubled Kashyap. At the conclusion of his match, Kashyap revealed that he had been training in Malaysia at Liew’s club, which helped him understand his game better and also gave him a definite advantage in closing the match, since he had observed the Malaysian’s game closely.
The latter, according to Kashyap has been his problem lately. “My coaches and me have noticed that at the back end of games, I tend to make certain mistakes. I don’t need to do anything special when I am in the lead. The plan is to kill off matches as quickly as possible, minimising risk,” he says.
The possibility of an all-Indian semi-final awaits as compatriots RMV Gurusaidutt and K Srikanth are slated to play their quarter-finals late on Friday night.