At 10-all in the final game, it became edge-of-the-seat stuff. PV Sindhu had erased a five-point deficit to be back on level terms with the World No. 1. But Carolina Marin is, well, Carolina Marin. She showed her tactical nous and asked for a time-out. It broke the momentum that the Indian had been carrying at that point.
Marin bagged the next three points after resumption and eventually cruised to victory. Sindhu had to settle for silver; the first Indian woman to earn the honour in Olympics. She played her heart out; made a scintillating comeback, winning five points on the spin, to clinch the first game. But Marin was different league. She grabbed the match by the scruff of the neck from the second game onwards to become only the second European to win the badminton singles gold. Poul-Erik Hoyer Larsen of Denmark had won the men’s title at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.
Both Sindhu and Marin were in terrific form in this Olympics. The 21-year-old Hyderabadi had rolled over Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara in the semi-final, playing breathtakingly attacking badminton. It would be wrong to suggest that Sindhu became a tad cautious in the final; a little defensive. Marin just didn’t allow her opponent to play her natural game.
Some shots from the Spaniard were audacious. A drop shot from the edge of the baseline in the second game was sheer poetry. The wily Marin also resorted to mind games to gain advantage over her rival. The Monica Seles-like grunt was a deliberate act. Marin also slowed the pace of the game whenever Sindhu struck top rhythm. Marin’s road to the final had been a cakewalk. She got there without dropping a game. In the gold medal contest, however, she found her match in Sindhu. The latter’s tenacity and perseverance severely tested the world champion’s resolve. She had to pull out every trick in the bag to tame the highly-talented Indian.
Like Marin, Sindhu, too, is a big-tournament player, which her two World Championship bronze medals would attest. Yes, she still doesn’t have Marin’s range of shots, but with age on her side she would improve further. The silver medal at Rio has provided Sindhu with a perfect platform to go for gold in Tokyo four years hence.
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