Sindhu claims silver after epic fight at Badminton World Championships
Glasgow: PV Sindhu at 1.79m might tower over the 1.55m tall Nozomi Okuhara, but on this Sunday, both stood tall. They were an amazing advertisement for badminton, maybe sport itself, as they fought most intensely in an energy-sapping contest that had every spectator at the Emirates Area on the edge of their seats. It drained not just the players, but the spectators, too.
As Okuhara floated and glided like a ballet dancer and yet all of sudden rose high to smash; Sindhu dipped and rose to return each barb. Then, suddenly roles were reversed. Okuhara fell many a time, only to rise again. Sindhu did that as well. In the end, the scores 21-19, 20-22, 22-20 show Okuhara as the winner, but it will never tell the full story of the stirring 110-minute battle.
It was as if there was a mirror and not a net in between the two. You could tell the difference only by the 10-inch difference in height, but not by the size of their hearts or their skill.
The two 22-year-olds with a 3-3 head to head record were matched at 20-all in the decider before Okuhara nosed ahead. There wasn't a stroke that was not played and there wasn't stroke that was not returned. The gap between the two was too thin to describe or see. Yet, in the end there had to be a winner and it was Nozomi Okuhara.
Coming into the final, Sindhu had the advantage of having won their two most recent encounters – in the Rio Olympics in August 2016, and in the 2017 Singapore Open Super Series four months ago. But this epic went to Okuhara, who now leads 4-3 in head to head matches.
With both Okuhara and Sindhu just 22 each, their recent clashes in Rio, Singapore and Glasgow suggest that this may just be the beginning of a long rivalry from two immensely talented star.
For India, the event was historic with two women on the podium — Saina with a bronze to go with her 2015 silver; and Sindhu with a silver to go with her 2013 and 2014 bronze medals. And yes, both have an Olympic medal each — bronze with Saina and silver with Sindhu. The race is on — who will get the first gold. It is a duo Indian badminton would do well to cherish. On Friday Okuhara accounted for Carolina Marin and then on Saturday it was Saina Nehwal before PV SIndhu on Sunday. The pint-sized bundle of energy. Through the entire match, she made the much taller SIndhu run all around, with high tosses alternating with gorgeous drops so desperately close to the net. Yet SIndhu mustering every ounce of energy in her sinewy and lanky frame bent forward and leant backward to retrieve each of them. It was the same on both sides.
Sindhu held handy leads at various points, but each time Okuhara came back. The Indian after losing the first game went to 20-17 only to see the Japanese girl catch up with her. Sindhu still managed to prise that game to push the encounter into the decider.
Though there were stages when one player would hold a seemingly handy lead, but it was not long before the other caught up or came close.
Ultimately Okuhara drew first blood with the first game at 21-19.