Basel (Switzerland): Two-time silver medallist P V Sindhu was left speechless after her agonising wait for the elusive gold finally ended with a maiden World Championship title here on Sunday.
Sindhu became the first Indian to win World Championships gold by thrashing familiar rival Nozomi Okuhara of Japan 21-7 21-7 in one of the most lop-sided finals ever. Two years after being robbed of the gold by Okuhara in an epic 110-minute final that went down as one of the greatest battles in badminton history, Sindhu finally exorcised the ghost of that heart-wrenching loss with a dominating win over the same opponent.
"I am really very happy. I have waited for this victory and finally I have become a world champion," Sindhu told reporters. "I have no words to express, because I have been waiting for so long. Last time, it was silver, before that it was silver and finally I am a world champion so I am really really happy. I have been expecting this for a very long time. So I got it finally and I want to enjoy it, feel it." It was Sindhu's fifth World Championships medal -- most by a female singles player alongside former Olympic and world champion Zhang Ning of China -- to go with the two successive silvers and a couple of bronze medals.
"This win makes it more special because I am the first woman in India to win gold and I would like to thank everybody out there for their support," she said. Sindhu has also won an Olympic silver in 2016 Rio Games, a silver at Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, an Asian Games silver at Jakarta and the BWF World Tour Finals last year. Sindhu credited her coaches for the performance and dedicated the win to her mother P Vijaya.
"A lot of credit to my coaches, Gopi Sir and Kim (Ji Hyun) and also to my parents, my support staff and sponsors who believed in me," she said. "I dedicate this win to my mom, its her birthday today. I thought I will gift her something and finally I gift her this gold medal. It is because of my parents that I am here today." As the Indian national anthem reverberated across the St Jakobshalle stadium here, Sindhu stood at the podium with moist eyes.
"It was really special when the flag went up and national anthem was playing and I had goosebumps, I have no words to express because you play for your country and it is definitely a proud moment for me," she said. The Olympic silver medallist said she approached the finals like any other match and it took the pressure off her as she could produce her best. "I think I just focused on my match and didn't think it was a final. I just thought it was just another match like I played the semifinals and quarterfinals. I just went in that way and gave my 100 percent.
"Winning and losing is secondary but for me just going to the court and giving my 100 percent is very important." Talking about the final, Sindhu said, "Usually the Japanese girls play a lot of rallies, so there were long rallies and then I was dominating all of them and from the starting I maintained the lead and finished it off. "I had to be alert on court. For me, I had to be prepared for everything, attack or defence. So not any particular strategy against her. It is just that each point mattered to me.
"I was very confident even though I was giving one or two points, then I was getting those points back and finally I did it." Asked if the absence of players such as Akane Yamaguchi and Carolina Marin made her path to the triumph easy, she said, "I don't think so because top one to 15 players are all of equal standard. It is just who plays well on a given day is the winner.
"I think there were lot of great players like Tai Tzu (Ying), (Nozomi) Okuhara and Ratchanok (Inthanon)." On the pressure of expectations from the fans, Sindhu said, "Everybody was wanting this win from me. After Rio Olympics silver medal, the expectations from me is really high. Every time I go to a tournament, everyone expects me to win a gold. "After a year I also thought what should I do for it and instead of thinking about others, I thought may be I should just play for myself and give my 100 percent and automatically I win because thinking about others would put extra pressure on me."
Asked about the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, she said, "Tokyo 2020 is not so far but right now it is step-by-step for me. I know the Olympic qualification is going so I hope I do well, but tight now I just want to enjoy and don't want to think anything else." Crestfallen after the devastating loss, Okuhara, the 2017 champion, said she just couldn't match up to the pace of Sindhu.
"Sindhu played very speedy returns and I couldn't move fast enough. I couldn't defend. It can happen in sports, this time it didn't work out," said the world no. 4 Japanese. "I have lost matches in other competitions so I know I will have to improve my physical and mental fitness to be prepared for next time."