Badminton fans might be worried about PV Sindhu’s dip in form after becoming World champion in Basel, Switzerland on August 25, 2019, when she annihilated Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara 21-7, 21-7 in 30 minutes.
A lot has changed in the last two years. Even the Olympic Games, scheduled to be held in 2020, were deferred by one year and will now kickstart on July 23.
The moot question on the minds of every badminton fan will be whether Sindhu, a silver medallist in the 2016 Rio Games, upgrades it to gold in Tokyo Games on August 1, the day women’s final will be held.
Olympian U Vimal Kumar, two-time national champion who went on to become national coach, assuaged the feelings of all. “Sindhu is a great player who knows how to do things on a big stage. Before becoming world champion in 2019, she bagged a silver in the Rio Games. I have no doubts about her capabilities,” said Vimal, who represented the country in the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games where he reached Round 62 in singles and Round 32 with doubles partnering Deepankar Bhattacharya.
All four – Sindhu, Sai Praneeth B (men’s singles) and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Chirag Shetty (men’s doubles) – have a chance to climb the podium. Top on Vimal’s list is Sindhu, followed by Sai and then the men’s doubles. Sindhu (ranked seventh) and Sai (ranked 15) are expected to top their respective groups and might face resistance from round 16 stages.
Vimal also pointed out that the men’s doubles duo is in a tough group and in the first match they are facing a formidable Chinese pair. “That will give a fair indication of how far they will progress,” he said.
“They all have a chance. They have all done well at the highest level to reach the Olympic Games. They have beaten the best players in the world. It all depends on how they will put everything together in one week. It will be very interesting,” said the Dronacharya coach.
Saina Nehwal, Srikanth Kidambi, women’s doubles Ashwini Ponnappa-Sikki N Reddy and mixed doubles pair of Aswini-Satwik should have qualifed for Tokyo, feels Vimal.
“All these players left it late, too late. They should have secured their berths in 2019 before the pandemic started itself. So many tournaments were cancelled due to Covid and they lost out on the qualifying tournaments. It was a little sad,” said Vimal who trained Saina at Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy in Bengaluru for three years after she won a bronze medal in the 2012 London Olympics. Saina reached the World championship final and went on to become World No.1 during the time.
Facing pressure is nothing new for Sindhu, who turned 26 last month.
“There will be pressure on Sindhu but she will never shy away from it either. She has performed well on big stages – in the Rio Games where she won silver and went on to become World champ. She has been training hard but lacks match practise but it is the same for all,” Vimal said about the Hyderabadi girl.
“In the group matches, Sindhu will face Israeli (Polikarpova Ksenia) and then a Hong Kong (Cheung Ngan Yi) player. Sindhu should top the group and meet Danish girl (Mia Blichfeldt) which will be a good test for her and is expected to meet Japanese in the quarterfinal. I feel Sindhu should take one match at a time,” Vimal told indianexpress.com on Saturday.
Before signing off, Vimal also added, “Sindhu should get used to the arena (Musashino Forest Sport Plaza BDM Courts where badminton matches will be held) as it will help her plan better. She should get used to the conditions including the drip, lighting inside the court, shuttles, then Sindhu’s chances will be bright, it can be anything.”