PV Sindhu has ensured she will not end 2018 without a title by winning the BWF World Tour Finals, becoming the first Indian to lift a BWF season-ending crown.
The Indian shuttler beat Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara 21-19, 21-17 in a rematch of the 2017 World Championship final at Guangzhou, China on Sunday, 16 December.
World number six Sindhu kept herself ahead of the world number five ranked Okuhara in a largely neck-and-neck summit clash, to end a horror run in tournament finals this year.
The 23-year-old had finished second at five different tournaments through the year, including the World Championships, the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games.
Victory hands Sindhu her 14th career title, but a first at a BWF World Tour event.
Crossing The Finish Line "“I would not say I lost in the finals, I would definitely say I got a silver. I am very happy with my performance. Maybe you lose some and you win some, it is all part of the game and part of life.”" - PV Sindhu to The Quint, prior to Guangzhou departure
The narrative around India’s top-ranked badminton star was quite different when she boarded the flight to China a week ago. ‘Silver Sindhu’ had settled into a tag attached to her, and to overcome that, she needed to get past an opponent who had got the better of her in two finals in the last two years.
In addition to nicking the epic 2017 World Championship final, Okuhara had also triumphed over Sindhu at this year’s Thailand Open title clash. But in two other meetings between the rivals this season – both big-ticket enocunters – Sindhu had emerged on top, defeating the Japanese in the quarter-finals at both the All England Open and the World Championships.
The confidence from those two victories, coupled with a more resolute outlook, helped counter any frayed nerves during Sunday’s contest.
Sindhu saw Okuhara eat into her leads in both games – from 11-6 down in the opener, the 2017 world champion had brought things back on level terms at 16-16, while also coming within a point of Sindhu at 15-14 in the second. But the greatest credit to the Indian lies in how she didn’t find herself trailing at any point in the final.
Two game points were wasted before taking the first game at the third time of asking, but in the second, Sindhu converted her first opening.
Breaking a ‘Major’ Hoodoo
2016 Olympic Games. 2017 World Championships. 2017 BWF Super Series Finals. 2018 Commonwealth Games. 2018 World Championships. 2018 Asian Games.
That she had reached six out of six major finals over the last two years speaks volumes about Sindhu’s consistency – but this was the moment to set herself as the golden standard.
It’s a credit to her and the Indian staff, helmed by Pullela Gopichand, that at no point during this streak of silvers did the head drop. Through the week at Guangzhou, Sindhu epitomised the values of patience and perseverance; this was the balancing of nature, the catching up of the law of averages.
Of her three wins in the group stage, none was more prized than the second – a victory over Tai Tzu Ying, to end a seven-match losing streak against the Taiwanese world number one.
But this – crossing the finish line at a tournament final – was the major chink she, and her team, would have been hoping to address.
The crease has been ironed out. PV Sindhu is a champion again.
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