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Prakash Padukone, Pullela Gopichand...Can PV Sindhu become India's third All England Open Champion?

After Prakash Padukone and Pullela Gopichand can India's PV Sindhu be the third one to win All England Open Badminton Championships?

India  to host 2021 World Badminton Championship

Indian badminton player PV Sindhu (Source: BWF)


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 20 March 2021 10:03 AM GMT

Gopichand had beaten all odds to lift the All England Open title at Birmingham's National Arena, the first Indian shuttler to do so in over two decades. Since then, almost two more decades have gone by and although Saina Nehwal did come close once, no Indian shuttler has been able to repeat the feat.

It was back in 1980 Prakash Padukone became the first Indian All England champion which is still remembered as a hallmark event in Indian sports and since it became a marker for judging any future Indian badminton star.

Gopichand won the All England Open in 2001 (Source: worldbadminton.com)

The sheer volume of prestige and heritage involved with the All England Open makes it one of the most coveted tournaments on the BWF calendar. With a history of just two Indians hailing as All England Open champions, the nation is striving to find its third All England Open champion and this year's tournament has opened an opportunity for India.

Ace Indian paddler, PV Sindhu, the reigning world champion and Indian badminton's beacon of hope in recent times is playing the semi-finals of the tournament later today and holds a pretty decent chance of winning the championships. Sindu recorded her best-ever performance at the All England Badminton Championships in 2018 as reached the semi-finals. Hopes will be rested once again on her shoulders, who could just follow into her coach Gopichand's footsteps and give India it's third All England Champion.

Can Sindhu be the All England Champion?

Sindhu in the quaterfinals of All England Open (Source: Twitter/@YonexAllEngland)

Sindhu has of late been acknowledged as a big-tournament player who shows stupendous form when it is a matter of prestigious tournaments. The reigning World Champion will now lock horns with Pornpawee Chochuwong of Thailand on Saturday in the semifinals.

Sindhu is seeded fifth in the tournament while Chochuwong is seeded sixth. The head-to-head comparison between the two gives Sindhu a 4-1 winning edge over Chochuwong. The last time, Sindhu and Chochuwong faced each other was during the World Tour Finals 2021, earlier this year, when Sindhu got the better of the Thai 21-18, 21-15.

There is a high probability Sindhu will comfortably pass the semifinal test and eventually play the summit clash. However, the equation changes a bit for Sindhu as she is going to meet the winner of the other semifinal between Ratchanok Intanon and Nozomi Okuhara, seeded fourth and second respectively.

Seedings won't be a matter for Sindhu, as she will riding high on confidence after defeating the third-seeded Akane Yamaguchi in the quarterfinals yesterday. Despite wining the first game, Yamaguchi found herself on the losing side by a 21-16, 16-21, 19-21 scoreline in a match that lasted 76 minutes. In a match that ebbed and flowed both ways, the rallies kept increasing in length and intensity as the night went on. Sindhu recovered from 17-18 down in the decider to hold her nerve and clinch a thriller. The emotions at the end of the win showed how much she was pushed by the Japanese third seed. It was the 18th meeting on the BWF Tour between Sindhu and Yamaguchi, and the Indian extended her head-to-head record to 11-7.

Sindhu has a head-to-head winning record of 9-8 against Okuhara. Sindhu had defeated Okuhara in the finals of BWF World Championships in 2019. They faced again in All England Open 2020, where Okuhara had taken the edge. Against Intanon, Sindhu has a lower winning head-to-head record, where Intanon has an edge of 6-4. Sindhu faced Intanon twice earlier this year, where Sindhu conceded defeat.

Despite, all the equations, Sindhu has a quite possible chance of winning the All England Championships 2021 and bring back the glory and pride of the prestigious tournament to the Indian shore, which was done earlier by the legends Prakash Padukone and Pullela Gopichand.

Can Sindhu win a medal at Tokyo Olympics?

The Indian shutter has to deal with the pressure of expectations -- something that the 9th seed did not have face during the 2016 Rio Olympics at her silver medal-winning campaign. This time, it's world champion PV Sindhu who will target Olympic glory in Tokyo. But for that Sindhu will have quite a challenging road considering the competition she will face against Carolina Marin, who is in stupendous shape this year but decided to give All England a miss because the race to Tokyo points will not be counted. Like World no. 3 Marin, World no. 2 Chen Yu Fei, and World no.1 Tai Tzu Ying will also be back in the race from the next tournament, and Sindhu has to punch above her weight to beat the best threes of the world. If Sindhu can maintain her form, then an Olympic medal is inevitable for her.

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