Mumbai: PV Sindhu played arguably the best tournament of her career so far at the World Championships in Basel, yet there is some work to do for the newly-crowned world champion.
Despite the 24-year-old's heroic show in Basel, Sindhu's father PV Ramana feels that his daughter still needs to tick a few boxes to transform into a complete package. "With new coach Kim Ji Hyun coming in now, it'll take four-five months for Sindhu to become an overall player. If she gets that confidence on the court with the changes, she can become totally polished," Ramana told journalists on the sidelines of an event to felicitate the shuttler.
After watching Sindhu dominate opponents convincingly with her no-nonsense badminton and sheer explosiveness, South Korean Kim " who joined the national set-up in March this year " and coach Gopichand have laid out a fresh plan for the world champion at the national camp in Hyderabad. "She now requires to play more near the net and get more confident in her strokes. The opponents don't lift (the shuttle) against Sindhu, they know she's a hard smasher. So that's where we want to improve " a parallel game with net dribbles. If she gets that confidence, and if she's injury-free, she'll have a good chance in the coming tournaments," the former men's national volleyball team player explained.
Throughout the first half of the 2019 campaign, Sindhu's aggressive approach failed to ruffle feathers as the World No 5 suffered early exits at tournaments. This is where Kim played an instrumental role in fine-tuning Sindhu's attacking game at the World Championships as well as the Indonesia Open. With controlled aggression, the lanky shuttler was finally able to take complete hold of the gameplay as she pounced on loose shots from the opponents with jump smashes and flat winners regularly.
"Well, the changes definitely had a lot (of impact on my game), because Kim has been here for a few months and I have been training with her as she had few changes in her mind. I think that really helped me and we worked out on that, of course under the guidance of Gopi Sir and it went on very well. I have improved on a lot of skills and a lot more to improve," said Sindhu.
The 24-year-old kept the points short and was able to find angles to hit winners from all corners of the court in Basel. Much of the credit goes to Kim and coach Gopichand's planning that allowed Sindhu to successfully employ her explosive gameplan against some of the top guns.
"She's been concentrating (on her game) under the guidance of both Gopi Sir and Kim. They discuss every day about her game. Fitness-wise, I'm taking care with strength trainer Srikanth (Verma Madapalli)."
Interestingly, in the run-up to the World Championships, Sindhu underwent a rigorous training schedule, which included a focus on her net game and a mix of both on-court and off-court activities for six-seven hours. "Sindhu is practicing for four hours in the morning and one and a half hours in the evening. Apart from fitness, the off-court training goes on for one-two hours," said Ramana before adding: "Every Wednesday and Saturday, she plays against the boys. There are lots of youngsters helping her."
At the 2019 World Championships, the 24-year-old penetrated the stoic defence of former World No 1 Tai Tzu Ying in a three-game thriller before romping past Chinese wizard Chen Yufei and former world champion Nozomi Okuhara in lop-sided matches en route to winning India's first-ever badminton gold medal at the Worlds.
So, how did Sindhu manage to make it look so easy in Basel?
"I was very much alert and I was prepared for this tournament and playing against Chen and Okuraha, even though it was a different style of the game, I was more aggressive and fast on my feet which was much-needed. So, I was ready for every point and not just thinking about the game. Every point was equally important for me," Sindhu explained.
However, even Ramana admitted that he didn't expect an easy ride for Sindhu in the final, which was against the same opponent who had beaten the Indian after a 110-minute epic two years ago. "I was expecting a very good match against Okuhara because they always fight for 1 and a half hour. This time, the expectations were not that much. It turned out to be a one-sided affair. In fact against Chen, I was confident because she is not that strong physically. If you keep the shuttle at the baseline and if it goes up to 13-14 rallies, then Chen is not so strong. So Sindhu had a chance to kill the shuttle. But Okuhara is short and fit, so in that match I was a bit worried," he said.
The memories of the energy-sapping 2017 World Championships final against Okuhara didn't cross her mind when she faced the Japanese in yet another highly-anticipated title clash. "No I don't think it (the 2017 final loss) was playing (in my mind) and also I was very positive because I didn't want to think about the match we played in 2017. It was just a fresh game for me because we have played a couple of times later as well so it was one of the fresh matches. I know, we know both our games but it was more like, we had to decide the strategy when we went on court," Sindhu concluded.