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PV Sindhu's disappointing start to 2019 is a worry for Indian badminton

PV Sindhus disappointing start to 2019 is a worry for Indian badminton


Updated: 30 July 2021 4:37 PM GMT
It seemed only recently that PV Sindhu was relieved that she finally got over the choker tag after winning the 2018 BWF World Tour finals in December by beating Nozomi Okuhara, the same opponent she lost to in the Singapore Open - that too in a fashion she would want to erase from her memory soon. Sindhu has tasted very little success in the first three months of this year and has seen a steady slump with every passing week. After creating history at the BWF Tour final, she immediately had to come back home to fulfil her PBL commitments having little time to rest after completing a gruelling tournament. Then came the
Indonesian Masters
in January where she lost in the quarter finals to Carolina Marin who has been her achilles heel during all her career defining moments and Sindhu hasn't found a method to consistently beat Marin who on any given day is a physical beast. She lost in this tournament to her without much of an effort losing by a scoreline of 21-11; 21-12. Two weeks of rest followed by Sindhu taking part in the National Championships where she took on all local rookies en route to the final eventually losing to Nehwal. She was put to a test against Ashmita Chaliha in the semi finals where she looked lost at moments against the upcoming talented rookie, but the Rio Olympic medalist put all her experience to use and scrapped past it. She skipped the
German Open
to concentrate on preparing herself for the biggest event which is the All England open and this is the point from which the real slump started for Sindhu. She had just ended her deal with Yonex and signed a mega deal with Li-Ning for 4 years worth nearly 50 crores. This led to her having a new racket and all other accessories to which she had to get used to within 2-3 weeks time to debut it at the prestigious All England Open. While the timing and value of the deal raised quite a few eye rows it did little to help her on the court. All England Open began and while everyone was hoping for a great run from her, she got
knocked out in the first round
 to Sung Ji Hyun against whom she had a decent H2H record and was by no means the hardest opponent she could have faced in the first round. The game started in a pace where she couldn't read the pace of shuttle and adjust her pace which led to Sindhu constantly hitting the birdie outside and lost several points due to unforced errors. While the scoreline of 16-21; 22-20; 18-21 might give the view that it was a close game, it was far from reality. Throughout the game Sung had the upper hand and in the third Sung was leading by 6-7 points post break that she decided to give leeway points to make it a respectable scoreline. It was clear that her racket & the failure to read the arenas drift gave her troubles.
She skipped the Swiss Open which will host the World Championships later this year (which could have given her an idea of how the arena is), but she chose to avoid it. Saina who had earlier opted to play in the tournament, later withdrew due to a stomach injury. To put the All England Open defeat behind and redeem herself with a bit of momentum, she entered the Indian open as a firm title favourite with Saina nehwal having withdrawn through injury. Though she went past the initial rounds with relative ease, she showed shades of being lethargic and was almost knocked out of the quarter finals by rookie Mia Blichfeldt from Denmark. The scoreline was a nervous 
21-19; 22-20. 
That luck wasn't going to last long where she lost in the semi finals to He Bingjao with a scoreline 23-21;21-18. Yet another tournament of the year where she looked lost and eventually lost the plot in later stages of the tournament. After a string of disappointments she showed signs of improving her body language as she started the Malasyian Open in decent fashion wrapping an aggressive Aya Ohori easily in the first round. She was presented with a chance to take revenge against Sung Ji Hyun for the loss in the earlier week, but she was back to her old self. https://twitter.com/sandyyunited/status/1113763001121759235 As always, defeat is not end of the world. It's just a lesson to perform better. With this view Sindhu entered the
Singapore Open
and for the first time in probably months we  saw a very aggressive Sindhu who was fighting for her points. https://twitter.com/sandyyunited/status/1116225961035358208 But in the next round, she was stretched by China’s Cai Yanyan and had to go to the decider to go through to the next round. That win should have been a boost for Sindhu but the semi-final vs Okuhara showed none of it. She played against Okuhara in a game where she lacked grit, body language and determination to even win two-three points at a stretch to a point where the commentators made a mention of whether Sindhu was distracted by her off-field commitments and hence losing focus on the game
. She lost the game eventually to an embarrassing scoreline of 21-7; 21-11. Also Read: Brands and Badminton - The romance has begun Her slump in form hasn't gone unnoticed and popular badminton observers have cast questions over the reason for her form slump. https://twitter.com/steenschleicher/status/1116980866163642368 While this was as much a familiar story last year too, where she failed to win a single title before the World Tour final, this year it's a matter of concern since the Olympic qualifiers start in two week's time. While there is no doubt about the hard work that Sindhu puts behind the scenes, she definitely has to go back to drawing board and wonder how to improve her body language and mentality - as consistency is the key for qualification to Olympics.
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