Bronze in 2013 and 2014
Silver in 2017 and 2018
It isn’t enough that PV Sindhu equaled the legendary Zhang Ning’s record of winning five medals at the World championship when she entered the semi-final on Friday. Now that she is past Chen Yu Fei and has reached her third successive final, she is hoping to declare that she is carrying Gold at the Customs at Hyderabad International airport on her return from Basel in Switzerland.
Why is 2019 a better bet than the previous two editions? For one, the entry of Korean coach Kim Ji Hyun into Sindhu’s professional life. Since early this year, Kim handles the women’s singles players, micromanaging them to give National coach Pullela Gopichand some elbow room to look at the big picture of nurturing the entire badminton talent from India.
“But both Gopi and Kim are in the picture. They have been concentrating on the mistakes she is prone to make,” says PV Ramana, Sindhu’s father and former India volleyball player who is now travelling with her in Basel.
Sindhu told Filter Kaapi that she had been training under Kim for the last couple of months.
“She has been doing really well. Every coach comes with a different mindset so I have been improving on a few strokes,” Sindhu said.
Those who have been tracking Sindhu’s game over the years say the change is showing.
“Sindhu has added more deceptive strokes to her repertoire with the result that she is able to disguise her next shot better. Her backhand has improved tremendously and so has her defence. She now creates opportunities to smash regularly. Add to that, the focus on her fitness has meant there is a different flair to her badminton now,” says R Ramakrishnan of Baseline, who handles Sindhu’s endorsements.
In an interview to the BWF website last week, Kim Ji Hyun was clinical in her analysis of what she thought of Sindhu’s game.
“Sindhu’s powerful and has a good physique but I feel she has to develop more skills,” said Kim. “The way she plays, I feel it’s not smart enough. I mean, at the top level, you have to be smart. It has to be a combination, like your technique, and hitting and mentality. There are so many skills she has to work on, especially net skills and deception. Step by step. We are working on skills, and changing tactics, as you can’t use the same tactics over and over again.”
Kim was conscious that there is no room for error at the top level, like the World championship, not even an inch. She told the BWF website, “If you play the same kind of game, you won’t have a chance.” Against Okuhara on Sunday, Sindhu will have to bring her top game into the mix.
The disappointment, if one can call it one, was that Sindhu did not get her hands on a title in the last one year. But those who follow badminton say there is little to distinguish between the top 10 players and it can be anyone’s game on a given day. Sindhu is ranked number 5 in the world now and the effort in an Olympic year will be to be in top 4 so that it can minimise the chances of meeting the top-ranked players till the semis.
“As her father, my effort over the next one year will be to ensure she remains fit and free from injury and perfect all her strokes. Basically stay in rhythm,” says Ramana.