From Hyderabad to Rio, the journey of PV Sindhu

PV Sindhu won India's first silver medal in badminton at the 2016 Rio Olympics

India have become a real force in badminton since the turn of the decade, winning its first Olympic medals in the sport.

Saina Nehwal broke India’s duck by taking bronze at the London 2012 Games, with PV Sindhu pushing the bar higher at Rio 2016 as she took home a silver medal.

While Sindhu seems nonchalantly effective with her racquet today, it is the result of years of hard work, sacrifice and dedication.

PV Sindhu celebrates a point during the Rio 2016 Olympic badminton final
PV Sindhu celebrates a point during the Rio 2016 Olympic badminton finalPV Sindhu celebrates a point during the Rio 2016 Olympic badminton final

Sporting lineage

Pusarla Venkata Sindhu was born into a family of athletes with both her parents representing the Indian national team in volleyball.

While her elder sister remains a national-level handball player, badminton quickly gained Sindhu's attention and she began training under Mehboob Ali who taught her the basics of the sport.

With her love of the game in place, Sindhu went on to fine-tune her skills under 2001 All England champion and Indian badminton legend Pullela Gopichand.

Pullela Gopichand on his way to winning the 2001 All England Open in Birmingham
Pullela Gopichand on his way to winning the 2001 All England Open in BirminghamPullela Gopichand on his way to winning the 2001 All England Open in Birmingham

The young shuttler would travel 56 kilometres daily to Gopichand’s badminton academy, showing her immense dedication and passion towards the sport.

That hard work soon paid off as Sindhu reached the quarter-finals of the 2010 World Junior Championships.

In 2012, she won the Asian Under-19 title before stunning London 2012 gold medallist Li Xuerui at the China Masters.

She achieved further success in 2013, claiming her first Grand Prix Gold title at the Malaysian Open before making history at the World Championships in Guangzhou.

Successive victories over reigning champion Wang Yihan and another home player, Wang Shixian, sent Sindhu through to the semi-finals to guarantee her India's first women's singles medal at the World Championships.

Ratchanok Intanon proved too strong in the last four with Sindhu having to settle for bronze.

PV Sindhu won bronze at the 2013 World Championships in Guangzhou
PV Sindhu won bronze at the 2013 World Championships in GuangzhouPV Sindhu won bronze at the 2013 World Championships in Guangzhou

Joy in Rio

Sindhu was now established in the upper echelons of badminton, taking bronze at the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games after a semi-final exit to eventual winner Michelle Li.

She also claimed a second bronze at the 2014 World Championships in Copenhagen, going down in the semi-finals to Carolina Marin.

Despite a slightly lacklustre 2015, Sindhu reached her first Olympic Games where she was drawn with Li and Hungary's Laura Sarosi.

After cruising past Sarosi in straight games, she had to beat Li to reach the knockout stages in Rio.

The Canadian edged the first game but Sindhu roared back to avenge her Glasgow defeat 19-21, 21-15, 21-17 and go through to the last 16.

At just 21, Sindhu really found her form in the knockout stages.

She brushed aside Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu-ying 21-13, 21-15 and then got the better of Wang Yihan again, 22-20, 21-19, to reach the semi-finals.

Only Japan's Nozomi Okuhara, a regular foe since their junior days, stood between her and the gold medal match.

Having taken a close first game, the Indian shuttler pulled away in the second to beat the fifth seed 21-19, 21-10 and become India's first Olympic badminton finalist.

Up against her was two-time world champion Marin and, despite taking the opening game in fine fashion, the Spaniard ultimately prevailed 19-21, 21-12, 21-15.

Continued success

The silver at Rio served as the perfect motivation to push on and achieve more titles and accolades.

But there has been frustration too for the 24-year-old from Hyderabad with Okuhara beating her 21-19, 20-22, 22-20 in the final of the 2017 World Championships in Glasgow.

It was silver for Sindhu at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games as she went down to compatriot Saina Nehwal, although the pair linked up to win team gold for India.

Marin again denied her a first global title at the 2018 World Championships in Nanjing.

Sindhu then achieved India's best showing in badminton at the Asian Games in Jakarta, but it was silver again as she fell to Tai Tzu-ying in the final.

"You have my support" - Champion Marin encourages beaten rival Sindhu

With Marin unable to defend her title after knee surgery, Sindhu has her best chance yet of claiming her first world title in Basel this month.

And while she remains in excellent form and within the top five of the world rankings, she will have high hopes of becoming India's first female Olympic champion at Tokyo 2020.

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