Silver lining: Sindhu goes down fighting

V Krishnaswamy
Monday, 28 August 2017

Okuhara’s win gave Japan their first singles title, and for India, it is silver for the second time in a row – Saina Nehwal won a silver in 2015, losing to Carolina Marin.

Glasgow: PV Sindhu at 1.79m might tower over the 1.55m tall Nozomi Okuhara, but on this Sunday, both stood tall. They were an amazing advertisement for badminton, maybe sport itself, as they fought most intensely in an energy-sapping contest that had every spectator at the Emirates Area on the edge of their seats. It drained not just the players, but the spectators, too.

Okuhara’s win gave Japan their first singles title, and for India, it is silver for the second time in a row – Saina Nehwal won a silver in 2015, losing to Carolina Marin.

Glasgow: PV Sindhu at 1.79m might tower over the 1.55m tall Nozomi Okuhara, but on this Sunday, both stood tall. They were an amazing advertisement for badminton, maybe sport itself, as they fought most intensely in an energy-sapping contest that had every spectator at the Emirates Area on the edge of their seats. It drained not just the players, but the spectators, too.

As Okuhara floated and glided like a ballet dancer and yet all of sudden rose high to smash; Sindhu dipped and rose to return each barb. Then, suddenly roles were reversed. Okuhara fell many a time, only to rise again.
Sindhu did that as well. In the end, the scores 21-19, 20-22, 22-20 show Okuhara as the winner, but it will never tell the full story of the stirring 110-minute battle. 

It was as if there was a mirror and not a net in between the two. You could tell the difference only by the 10-inch difference in height, but not by the size of their hearts or their skill.

The two 22-year-olds with a  3-3 head to head record were matched at 20-all in  the decider before Okuhara nosed ahead. There wasn’t a stroke that was not played and there wasn’t stroke that was not returned.

The gap between the two was too thin to describe or see. Yet, in the end there had to be a winner and it was Nozomi Okuhara.
Coming into the final, Sindhu had the advantage of having won their two most recent encounters – in the Rio Olympics in August 2016, and in the 2017 Singapore Open Super Series four months ago. But this epic went to Okuhara, who now leads 4-3 in head to head matches.

With both Okuhara and Sindhu just 22 each, their recent clashes in Rio, Singapore and Glasgow suggest that this may just be the beginning of a long rivalry from two immensely talented star.

Through the entire match, she made the much taller SIndhu run all around, with high tosses alternating with gorgeous drops so desperately close to the net. Yet SIndhu mustering every ounce of energy in her sinewy and lanky frame bent forward and leant backward to retrieve each of them. It was the same on both sides.

Sindhu held handy leads at various points, but each time Okuhara came back. The Indian after losing the first game went to 20-17 only to see the Japanese girl catch up with her. Sindhu still managed to prise that game to push the encounter into the decider.

Sindhu got an early lead, but Okuhara, always taking time to get into her rhythm caught up again. From 17-20 she came to 20-all with two net cords dribbling onto Sindhu’s side. But the Indian stayed in and won 22-20.

It was back to the see-saw as the lead ebbed and flowed. Okuhara got to the matchpoint at 20-19 and then Sindhu pulled it back, only to net the next one to give the Japanese girl a second match point.

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