P V Sindhu has been marked for success very early in her life. After teasing glory even as a teenager, her promise seemed fulfilled when she produced a rousing silver medal winning performance at the 2016 Rio Olympics. While the silver has been great for Indian badminton, the manner in which Sindhu has taken it in her stride and marched toward greater glory has been nothing short of impressive.
The accomplishment of a massive goal sometimes tends to dull the edge of an athlete – as has been the case with Novak Djokovic in the aftermath of his victory at Roland Garros this season. Though very young, Sindhu has shown great maturity in keeping her feet on the ground despite going through a heady spin of nationwide celebrations.
The young Hyderabadi would have been forgiven a period of meandering on the strength of her Rio silver medal. But Sindhu seems to have learnt this Andrew Carnegie lesson by heart: “People who are unable to motivate themselves must be content with mediocrity,” said the 19th century steel tycoon.
The weeks that followed her medal-winning performance in Rio left Sindhu exhausted from a whirlwind tour around the country. The youngest Indian to ever win an Olympic medal was serenaded in an endless parade that took her from one state to the next. But she was quick to get back to her routine as she set out to conquer newer peaks.
It is this blinkered focus and a quest for greatness that sets Sindhu apart from the league of Indian badminton players. “I am very happy with my success so far,” said Sindhu recently. “This is just the beginning. I know I want to be the best in the world, but there is a long way to go. If I play well, the results will take care of themselves.”
Sindhu then reached the semifinals of the Dubai Superseries Finals by exacting revenge from her Rio slayer Carolina Marin, with a sensational performance in the final league match of her group. The 10th ranked Indian lost the semis, but not before she gave it every ounce of her energy, against Sung Ji Hyun. Resilience has been her constant companion this season, as she toiled around the world to force her way into the top draw of women’s badminton.
After a two month hiatus from the end of August, Sindhu returned to competition in Denmark. Playing Sayako Sato in the third round at Odense, the Hyderabadi sent out a clear signal that the medal from Rio belonged in her trophy cabinet and not inside her focused mind. Even though she lost that encounter to the Japanese, Sindhu played with characteristic gusto before losing in three (13-21 23-21 18-21) intensely fought games.
At the end of the French Open, Sindhu was lying a distant 16th in the Race to Dubai, with only two events left to go. The task of earning a spot in the Superseries Finals seemed nearly impossible. But fighting against odds seems to come naturally to this gifted athlete.
Sindhu had served another early warning of her burning desire in another lost encounter at the beginning of the calendar, in an effort that was barely appreciated.
Playing Nitchaon Jindapol at home in January, Sindhu left her guts on the court in an 88-minute marathon that took 127 points to decide. It was for a spot in the quarterfinals of the Syed Modi International in Lucknow and the gladiatorial contest ended 21-18 24-26 17-21 in favour of the Thai star.
The match served to shine a mirror on the evolution of Sindhu into a gut spilling warrior, who would not leave the court until her last sinew was busted open. The young Hyderabadi was always known for her stroke making prowess – but this was really the first sighting of a fully grown tigress and her battle ready claws.
With all the wealth in her bank, Sindhu could afford a plane to Dubai, all for herself. A ticket to the Superseries finale though needs to be earned the hard way. At a time when few were willing to wager a bet on her entry into the Dubai Superseries Finals, Sindhu produced perhaps the most scintillating run of her young career.
Sindhu saved a match point in the third round of the China Open as she lived on the edge to stay in the hunt for a spot at the season finale. Even in the semis and finals, it took a mighty effort from Sindhu to survive a couple of nail biters to clinch the first Super Series title of her career.
If that wasn’t a courageous enough response under the circumstances, Sindhu followed that up with another ravenous performance in Hong Kong. She lost in the finals to Tai Tzu Ying – but the effort was just enough to earn her the last available spot in Dubai.
Sindhu has been tapping into the national consciousness with her impressive performances over the past three years. But 2016 might be remembered as the year in which the young woman came into her own and stamped her class on the international arena.
A thumping smash, an expansive reach and brute stamina seem to be the hallmarks of Sindhu’s flourishing game. She has also worked hard to build muscle, giving her previously wiry frame power and agility.
At 5’10”, Sindhu is a towering physical presence on the court with an elegant game and powerful tools. Her success in Rio and an undiminished hunger point to a quest that could transform Sindhu into a giant of international badminton over the next few seasons.
First Published On : Dec 19, 2016 11:26 IST