While we love PV Sindhu the medallist, we miss PV Sindhu the champion
Keeping consistency as key, PV Sindhu presents us often with medals, if not titles. With the World Championships up next, can the Indian badminton queen defend her crown?
There is an undeniable amount of excitement that Indian badminton fans seem to simply derive by cheering themselves hoarse to any PV Sindhu match - no matter the stage, no matter the opponent, her on-court energy, louder screams seem to coalesce in the air with our very own. India loves PV Sindhu - a 2-time Olympic medallist, a World Champion, a former World No. 2 and heaps the pressure of expectations on her lanky 5 foot 10 inches frame to bring home medals, if not the title itself. And PV Sindhu does respond - ensuring her fans are never left high and dry as she gifts them with moments galore to celebrate her champion charisma - and the most recent of such instances happened during the entire Indonesia Badminton Festival where Sindhu made it two semi-finals in a row and finished with a silver medal at the BWF World Tour Finals.
The seasoned champion is well-known for her big-match attitude and considerably raises her game when she is pushed to her extremes - her match against World No. 3 Akane Yamaguchi in the semi-finals of the BWF World Tour Finals was one such example of Sindhu displaying her Olympic medallist and World Champion brilliance against the Japanese.
However, against the 19-year-old An Se Young of Korea, no matter what Sindhu did, it fell short of outclassing the 'little young genius' in the finals as she swept clean all the three Indonesia tournaments, played back to back - the Indonesia Masters, the Indonesia Open and ultimately, the season-ender to announce her reign. An Se Young remained invincible from start to finish, anticipating every move from Sindhu, gauging her strategies, and eventually ended up extending her head-to-head record to 3-nil over Sindhu with a 21-16, 21-12 victory to lift the title.
As PV Sindhu towered beside the Korean youngster, a silver medal around her neck - our hearts beamed proudly still although the yearning for seeing her with the gold still beat palpably loud - once more. With PV Sindhu, we are equally familiar with the two images she blesses us with - her medallist self and her champion self. However, we've been treated to the sight of PV Sindhu - the medallist already at the Swiss Open 2021, the coveted bronze at the Tokyo Olympics, and finally, a silver again at the Badminton World Tour Finals - the title honor a complete miss from this year's calendar. And the heart wants what it wants and sorely misses the sight of Indian badminton's poster girl as a champion again.
Is PV Sindhu up for saving her World Champion crown?
The 2021 badminton season has been a whirlwind after the conclusion of the Tokyo Olympics. If the start of the year saw tournaments following a stop-gap pattern or getting entirely slashed out or postponed, the post-Olympics season was littered with tournaments in Europe and Asia. While PV Sindhu rose to the occasion after her Tokyo triumph, she was repeatedly stopped from progressing beyond the quarter-finals (once again by An Se Young at the Denmark Open) and the semi-final stages of all the other events she played in after the Olympics except the Badminton World Tour Finals where she once again crossed swords with the Korean teenager.
Given how this BWF 2021 season wasn't 'normal' and Chinese players, like Olympic champion Chen Yufei, Spain's 3-time World Champion Carolina Marin, and of course, Chinese Taipei's Tai Tzu-ying was missing from the scene, it was expected of PV Sindhu to claim at least one title from the five she took part in, after the Olympics. On paper, it did look like a free romping ground for PV Sindhu to make the most out of - the World Champion, as she is. However, this crown also comes with a date and there remains only one tournament on the horizon now where PV Sindhu can have the opportunity to rage back and defend that crown and it is only at a week's length from now.
The Badminton World Championships 2021 are scheduled to begin from 12th December at Huelva, Spain at a stadium named after Sindhu's 2016 Rio Olympics final opponent - Carolina Marin. But on Sindhu's plate is a hefty challenge as the draw for the World Championships isn't kind for the 5-time medallist from that event. With potential clashes lined up against Thailand's Pornpawee Chochuwong, a quarter-final clash against Tai Tzu-ying or even a meeting with the Spanish home favourite, Marin - Sindhu will have to walk on eggshells and fight the battle of a queen, if she wants to retain that crown.
While the rigour of back-to-back tournaments will give PV Sindhu a different kind of advantage, it also needs to be remembered that Tai Tzu and Marin will be coming back to the tour well-rested, having skipped the season-ending tournaments for a variety of reasons. This only means that Sindhu's game needs to be tuned even more finely before she braves the waters at Spain - because the very best's of the sport will be there to vie for the crown that sits with Sindhu now.
However, to reiterate, Sindhu is the big-match player, and her attitude also shifts considerably when it comes to the big stage and she begins to deliver. With only one tournament left to go and the memory of Sindhu being a champion last going back to the previous World Championships in 2019, the heart desperately wants Sindhu to roar back, even more loudly, and place that crown on her head once again.