How did PV Sindhu lose to Tai Tzu-ying at the Tokyo Olympics? - former chief coach breaks it down
Analysing the high-octane clash, legendary coach SM Arif discusses the how's and why's behind PV Sindhu's loss to Tai Tzu-ying at the Tokyo Olympics.
Ace Indian shuttler Pusarla Venkata Sindhu's winning streak at the Tokyo Olympic Games came to a bitter end on Day 8 of the quadrennial event. With this, her quest for the elusive Olympic gold also has come to foil.
In the second semifinal at the Musashino Forest Sports Plaza which was supposed to determine Chen Yufei's opponent in the summit clash, World No. 1 and second seed Tai Tzu-Ying broke Sindhu's four-match straight-game wins, notching a double-game victory (21-18, 21-12).
This defeat stunned the Indian badminton fraternity who were weighing on the veteran shuttler for the coveted yellow metal, given that Sindhu had been enjoying a flatten spree.
Slotted in Group J, reigning world champion Sindhu started from where she finished at the BWF World Championships three years back, pulling off sterling performances to beat Israel's Ksenia Polikarpova and Hong Kong's Cheung Ngan Yi by straight games to top her group. In the pre-quarterfinal, she thrashed Denmark's Mia Blichfeldt 21-15, 21-13 to set up her quarterfinal clash against fourth seeded Japanese, Akane Yamaguchi whom she defeated 21-13, 22-20 in order to confirm her second straight Olympic semifinal berth.
PV Sindhu was so dominating that her opponents could not take the match against her to the third game in any of her last four outings.
But on Saturday in front of Tai Tzu-Ying, she got exposed and suffered a tame straight-games defeat herself. In the first game, Sindhu could make the Chinese Taipei shuttler sweat for points but conceded the game points before crumbling under pressure to let Tai wrap up the match, winning the second game 21-12.
Such a poor performance after four consecutive wins left netizens buzzing.
PV Sindhu had no control over the shuttle
But legendary badminton coach Syed Mohammed Arif, 77, is not surprised with Sindhu's defeat to Tai Tzu-Ying in the semifinal.
Analysing Sindhu's loss in the high-octane clash, Arif said, "I thought she would win the first game. She could have won it if she did not commit too many mistakes. She was leading the game initially. But today PV Sindhu was struggling. She had no control over the shuttle. In the first game, Sindhu had the wind in her favour, so I expected her to win that. In the second game, everything went wrong (for her) from touchline judgment to too many unforced errors. She also could not play drop shots properly with which she defeated Akane Yamaguchi. Sindhu also looked under pressure from the very onset of the game."
Though Sindhu has had a poor record (5-14) against Tai Tzu Ying, she always managed to trump the 27-year-old at marquee events.
For Tai, therefore, the win against Sindhu at the Tokyo 2020 semi-final was a sweet revenge of her pre-quarter final defeat against the Indian five years back in Rio and quarter final defeat at the 2019 World Championships.
"One has to cherish the way Tai plays. She had played a magnificent quarter final against Ratchanok Intanon before the semifinal. What a match it was! Intanon won the first game, then Tai made a comeback to win both games to clinch the match. Her confidence, skills and deceptive nature of play combining good form makes her a tough shuttler to beat," said the Padma Shri award-winning septuagenarian coach, who is still busy shaping the career of budding players at Jwala Gutta Academy of Excellence even after giving 50 years of his life to badminton in making champion shuttlers like Manoj Kumar, Parveen Kumar, PVV Laxmi, Pullela Gopichand, Jwala Gutta and Saina Nehwal.
Famous for his tactical acumen and analysis of players' style, Arif, who laid the foundation of badminton in Hyderabad, said Tai Tzu-Ying had never for a moment let Sindhu understand her game strategy in the match which lasted 40 minutes.
"She kept Sindhu guessing throughout the match. Tai is known for that. It is the mystery weapon she uses against top players. She played a terrific three-game match against Ratchanok Intanon. Still she made a good comeback against Sindhu and won it in two games. It is a testimony to her fitness as well," stated Arif, who served India as chief national coach for seven years from 1997 to 2004.
Asked how young shuttlers at the academy reacted to Sindhu's lost chance of becoming the first Indian to win Olympic gold in badminton, he said, "Of course they are disappointed. Sindhu is an idol for them. They were waiting to see her win gold. We have installed a giant screen at the dining hall so they can watch top shuttlers playing at the Olympics and learn from them."
On Sunday, the Rio Olympics silver medallist will contest for the bronze against China's He Bingjiao, who lost to her compatriot Chen Yufei in a gruelling three-game first semifinal on Saturday. Even a bronze medal at Tokyo 2020 will cement Sindhu's name in the history book of India's campaigns at the Olympics. Despite a missed gold, Sindhu now stands a chance to become the first Indian athlete to win two Olympic medals in two successive Games.
Tai Tzu-Ying will win gold
In the meantime, the Hyderabadi coach has tipped the Chinese Taipei shuttler as the favourite for the gold.
Giving a peep into why he believes she is the favourite for the gold against Chen Yufei in Sunday's final, Arif said, "Now, I am sure Tai Tzu-Ying will win the gold. She will not let this opportunity go anyway. She has been in wonderful form. The Chinese girl is in good form too, but she lacks experience. As Tai is the most deceptive player in the world now, it will be difficult for Chen Yufei to get better off her in the final."
In their last meeting in March at the All England Open final, Tai Tzu-Ying defeated Chen Yufei 21-19, 21-15. Overall, Tai has a big edge over the 23-year-old Chinese shuttler since she has an overwhelming 15-3 head-to-head record against her.