PV Sindhu’s 2019: Early exits and an historic gold

A look back at the Indian’s shuttler’s dramatic badminton season, with an insight into what can be expected in the future. 

By Saurabh Shankar ·

The past 12 months have been a rollercoaster ride for India’s top-ranked women’s singles shuttler PV Sindhu.

The 24-year-old’s campaign will be remembered for the historic BWF World Championships gold medal in August.

Since that competition though, Sindhu has been on a downward spiral which culminated in a group stage elimination at the BWF World Tour Finals. With the 2019 badminton season now done and dusted for the Indian badminton player, we look back at Sindhu’s year and how she could approach the 2020 season with the Olympics on the horizon.

Worrying record for PV Sindhu?

The World Championships triumph aside, the past twelve months have been tough at times for the 2016 Olympic silver medallist.

Sindhu made it to the finals just once (Indonesia Open) at World Tour events and got till the semifinals twice (India Open and SIngapore Open).

Her record for the year reads 30-17 wins to losses for the calendar year, which is a substantial dip from her previous campaign where she managed 46 wins to just 16 losses.

Sindhu’s performance post the World Championships her best run was to the quarterfinals at the 2019 French Open.

There was no change in her fortunes at the BWF World Tour Finals in Guangzhou, as she lost her first two matches and did not advance to the semi finals.

PV Sindhu has a wins to losses record of 30-17 for this badminton season

Playing in the same place where she scripted a BWF World Tour Finals gold medal in 2018, Sindhu fell short against some of the best shuttlers in the world.

The Indian let her advantage slip against Akane Yamaguchi of Japan as well as Chen Yu Fei of China, losing both contests. Sindhu seemed visibly tired by the third game on both those occasions and was unable to match her opponent’s fitness, losing 8-21 to Yamaguchi and 12-21 to Chen in those deciding games.

As a player who profits more from her power rather than her precision, PV Sindhu has been the most effective when she’s had the right amount of rest and recuperation, which hasn’t always been the case due to the scheduling of tournaments.

“I think it has been a tough year for her (Sindhu) as I would say, in difficult condition she is not been able to adapt. The World Championship result was phenomenal, but the other results could have been better, she has lost quite a few close matches and hasn’t been able to close on a few matches but overall, I think it’s been a tough year for her,” Sindhu’s coach P Gopichand said in an interview to Olympic Channel regarding her performance.

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The road ahead for PV Sindhu

With her journey at the World Tour Finals coming to an end, India’s PV Sindhu will finally get a period of sustained rest and time away from the game. She is expected to take to the court next only in late January, for the Premier Badminton League (PBL).

The next month will therefore be an important one for the Indian badminton player to get back to the drawing board and improve on her shortcomings as the Tokyo 2020 Games close in. Sindhu has been most effective when playing aggressively from the very beginning, dominating opponents with a barrage of smashes and not allowing them to settle.

That was her mantra to success at the World Championships, a tournament prior to which Sindhu suffered a similar dip in form, but managed to switch things around to deliver the goods when it mattered.

Sindhu has proved time and again her ability to fight back and rise beyond a spell of bad form, and it is owing to this past record that former Indian badminton player Aparna Popat believes this early elimination at the World Tour Finals shouldn’t be a cause for concern for the 24-year-old.

"I don't think this is the time for doing post mortems of her performance. What matters is that she is in a happy state. For all the China Open, Korea Open or India Open wins, you would always prefer to have a World Championship gold. The World title is more than enough," she said in an interview to espn.in.

Popat also added that this performance slide need not necessarily reflect what could happen at the 2020 Olympics. “I don't think things like form are a good way to predict how Sindhu is doing. She never actually builds up to any tournament. The only thing that matters to her is that she peaks at the right time. I'm sure she and her team know what they are doing for that,” added Popat.

Sindhu herself does not seem too flustered about her form in the recent past, as she was relatively optimistic about her season in an interview given to the Olympic Channel after her loss against Chen Yu Fei.

“I think overall, it was a good, long match. I’m a bit sad but it’s okay, it happens. I have to learn from my mistakes and come back much more stronger,” said Sindhu.

The 2020 Tokyo Games is still nearly nine months away, giving the reigning silver medallist plenty of time to rediscover her best. With some much-needed rest and time off the court, one can hope for better things to fall PV Sindhu’s way come the 2020 badminton season.