PV Sindhu had reached the final day of a tournament seven times since September, 2017 and had come up with a silver medal. On Sunday (December 16), in Guangzhou, China, that streak ended and the colour of the medal around her neck turned to yellow. With a 21-19, 21-17 win over Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara, Sindhu also became the first Indian shuttler to win gold at the year-ending tournament which pits the top-8 ranked players in the world. Previously, Saina Nehwal had reached the summit clash of 2011 World Super Series Finals and Jwala Gutta/V Diju contested the final in 2009.
Since September 17, 2017 at the Korea Open, Sindhu reached the finals of Hong Kong Open, BWF World Tour Finals, India Open, Commonwealth Games, Thailand Open, World Championships and Asian Games but came out with a silver medal each time. Question marks were raised over her mental strength to play out the gold medal match. And on Sunday, that run ended and the question marks can be put to rest.
In the week where Sindhu beat World No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying to end her six match losing streak against the Chinese Taipei shuttler, the win in the final, over Okuhara who had denied her World Championship title in agonising fashion, was icing on the cake by finishing the tournament unbeaten.
Playing her third successive season-ending tournament and second straight final, Sindhu let out tears of joy and relief when she thumped a smash across the net to seal the match on first opportunity. Last year, Sindhu was beaten by another Japanese shuttler in Akane Yamaguchi – who she beat in the first match of the round robin this year.
Okuhara started slowly in the opening game while Sindhu roared to domination and led 14-6 for a comfortable lead. Sindhu used her height to good effect with lovely drop shots and angled shots to Okuhara’s small frame. But, Okuhara clawed back to win all points that went the distance to make it an even game at 16-16 – winning 10 of the 12 points.
With nerves the decisive factor at this stage, it was Okuhara that blinked and made two uncharacteristic errors to give Sindhu a 19-17 advantage. Soon enough, Sindhu had three game point opportunities and she squandered two – one by seeing Okuhara’s shot possibly land wide but without a challenge remaining in her bag. A drop shot on the third game point and Sindhu was one away from the gold medal.
The second game proved to be more of a competitive affair with neither shuttlers willing to give an inch which explains their 6-6 head-to-head coming into it and neither able to seal consecutive wins over the other since 2016-2017.
PV Sindhu was the one who had the slender lead for the most part but Okuhara never gave way and allowed it to become a larger deficit until 17-16. A service error and an impatient smash wide of the line meant Sindhu was two points from glory. Okuhara took one point more but Sindhu held on to win the match and ensure she stood on the top of the podium this time and not on the second step.