Updated: August 1, 2021 2:01:21 pm
After doors to the Olympic final were shut on her by Tai Tzu Ying, PV Sindhu now needs to hastily regroup, slay the demons in her mind to get herself the bronze medal.
There’s a million reasons to wake up on Sunday shiny, new and bright. India doesn’t have a surfeit of medals, so PV Sindhu really can’t afford to mope over lost gold when there’s a bronze to be won. She has a chance to become the first Indian woman with two Olympic medals.
Her last match of the Rio Olympics was a loss. Here there’s a win to be taken to sign off. She’s done this as a 19-year-old at CWG in Glasgow – bounced back from a torrid loss to Michelle Li to fight for a medal, and register on the medal tally. The bronze might look duller than gold, but 20 years down, she might look back at Tokyo fondly, and India could move a few notches higher on the tally.
More than anything, Sindhu has worked hard, learnt a bunch of skills and added solidity to her game plodding away, expressly for Tokyo. And while Tai didn’t afford her a chance to nail some of those skills, the Chinese He Bingjiao stands in between her and the podium.
The Chinese southpaw starts as favourite. She’s the first left-hander Sindhu will come across in this tournament. He BJ is playing at breakneck speed, is fitter than ever, and her unsettlingly powerful smashes left Nozomi Okuhara in tears after the quarters. She rarely lets slip a chokehold on opponents when she’s leading in a set and is particularly tough to rattle when not in acute discomfort (read: Marin getting stuck into her, noisily).
The Chinese are here to make up for the lost 2016 podium, so they’ll not falter in temperament. But Sindhu boasts an enviable record of seldom having lost to a Chinese at the Majors. A hurting Sindhu, out to prove a point, can channel her beast mode into making good of this second chance.
Speaking at her Hall of Fame induction earlier this year, China’s double Games gold medallist Zhang Ning (2004 & 08), the only female shuttler, to twice bag the Olympic title, had correctly picked out Chen Yufei, Tai Tzu Ying, Sindhu (and wrongly Nozomi Okuhara) for Tokyo Last 4. This was before the draws even came out. Sindhu ought to know that the Chinese respect her ability since the 2013 World Championships to spoil their parties, as she mopped up the last domineering generation at back to back World’s. With fast shuttles in play, and her confident game not having diminished overnight merely because Tai Tzu Ying was enjoying her sorcery, Sindhu will need to quickly whip up a gameplan to down He BJ.
As score settling goes while her Rio silver reign ends, the task is straightforward for PV Sindhu: there’s a left-hander who needs downing, and an Olympic medal is on offer. This is peak Sindhu-terrain.
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