Feature | Badminton

Improvement, Focus and Hope: PV Sindhu eyes upturn in 2020

Following a below-par second half of 2019, India’s badminton ace PV Sindhu looks poised to return to form in the lead-up to Tokyo 2020

By Sandeep Banerjee ·

She scaled the peak of the BWF World Championship in August last year, but for the rest of PV Sindhu’s 2019 campaign, it was a story of below-par performances that culminated in an early elimination from the BWF World Tour Finals in December, where she had entered as defending champion.

Regardless, for a shuttler of Sindhu’s calibre, such ups and downs are part of the job and only spur her further. Those who witnessed how she came back stronger from dejection in the 2017 and 2018 editions of the World Championship, would know.

Pullela Gopichand, Chief National Coach for the Indian Badminton team, also has no doubts about Sindhu's ability to bounce back. Speaking to the Olympic Channel, he said, “I think she is too good a player to not come good. Yes, the results haven’t been there but we will turn it back. We need to make some changes and we will get her back.”

Eyes on the prize

Even though her number six ranking on the world chart pretty much assures her of a Tokyo 2020 berth, Sindhu will still be looking to make the most of the events leading up to the Olympics in July-August.

Speaking to the news agency PTI, she said, “It won't be easy though, this time in 2020, we start off with Malaysia and Indonesia in January and it goes on as there are a few tournaments for Olympic qualification. So all the tournaments will be important for us.”

Making the most of the opportunities

Sindhu will be hoping to use these opportunities to eliminate her flaws and improve her technique. “We are doing a lot of work on technique and skill workouts and everything will be planned and it will go well in the Olympic season.”

Fellow shuttlers Saina Nehwal and boxer MC Mary Kom, among others, will be hoping to become only the second Indians to bag two or more career Olympic medals, a feat that wrestler Sushil Kumar has achieved.

Olympic gold will be the target for PV Sindhu after she captured silver - and the attention of the nation - at the Rio Olympics four years ago.

However, the competition for the gold medal will be incredibly fierce.

Should the world champion win gold, Sindhu will have to prevail over badminton's elite, including players like current world number one Chen Yu Fei of China, Chinese Taipei's Tai Tzu Ying and the formidable Japanese duo Akane Yamaguchi and Nozomi Okuhara.

P.V. Sindhu on her obsession with Olympic gold

India last won an Olympic gold medal in 2008. Badminton star P.V. Sindhu, t...

The lure of local competition

Rio 2016 medallist Sindhu will also participate in the Premier Badminton League during this time, where she will once again turn out for the Hyderabad Hunters, who held on to her for Rs 77 lakh.

The fifth season of the yearly domestic league will run between January 20 to February 9 and will be missing big domestic names such as Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth and a few international ones such as Carolina Marin and Viktor Axelsen, who have opted out to focus on their Olympic preparations instead.

For Sindhu however, it is something she looks forward to, "It is just another set of matches for me and I will look to enjoy. Since it is happening in India, for the crowd and also for the fans, it is important and they feel nice when top players play at home."

Apart from the fact that she can play without the pressure of her ranking getting affected, she also enjoys facing the up-and-comers, “It will provide encouragement to the youngsters and a lot of them will learn from top players. It is a big advantage for the youngsters to learn and a big opportunity as well.”

The badminton star will begin her new BWF World Tour campaign with the Malaysia Masters 2020, which will be held between January 7-12 in Kuala Lumpur.