It was the clash between Saina Nehwal and Pusarla Venkata Sindhu that Indian fans anxiously waited for. But the finals of the seventh edition of Yonex-Sunrise India Open holds something even more special than that. It is the tie between PV Sindhu and Carolina Marin that the badminton world eagerly awaits, for it is a brand new episode in a growing rivalry between these two. A tug-of-war that will test both the shuttlers' ability to psychologically deceive the opponent.
One of the reasons why this clash will be a test of mentality is because of the growing rivalry that surrounds them. Their most recent clash saw Marin get ousted in a three-game thriller at the Dubai World Super Series Finals in 2016. It was a game where India witnessed the early days of Sindhu's development.
Their first meeting at the World Junior Championships in 2010 — which Sindhu won comfortably 21-17, 21-19 — was their first encounter but it wasn't the beginning of their rivalry. Instead, the third round encounter at the 2011 Maldives International Badminton Challenge proved to be the start of something special.
In that match, Marin was defeated in straight games by a 15-year-old Sindhu, who then went on to claim her first senior title. Both shuttlers, still in their teens, showed glimpses of their physical prowess at such a young age and soon they were being heralded as the 'next big thing' in badminton.
Now, after squaring off seven times since then, the rivalry has become the talk of the badminton world. Though the fervour is expected to not reach the levels of a Lee Chong Wei vs Lin Dan encounter, there is no denying that it has the potential to reach that level. The Indian shuttler has faced the Spaniard nine times in a BWF tournament where interestingly, Marin has the edge with five wins to Sindhu's four. However, Sindhu has a chance to level the head-to-head score when they face in the final of the India Open.
Marin was the first to book her place in the semi-finals after beating Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi 21-16, 21-14 in a 40-minute clash. That should be enough to prove her domination in crunch matches, which is the most admired part of Marin's style of play. Her tendency to dominate the court drains the opponent physically and mentally. Just like Yamaguchi, who was forced to play loose shots.
Meanwhile, Sindhu had a tedious job against second seed Sung Ji Hyun in the second semi-final. Both Sindhu and Sung Ji started on an aggressive note with Sung claiming an early 6-5 lead, however, it was Sindhu who fought her way back to take five consecutive points to make it 10-6 and get into the driver's seat from thereon.
After her first game win and change of ends, the Hyderabad-born shuttler continued with the same aggression and composure she had in the first game, opening up a 5-2 lead. The momentum shifted in the Korean's favour but soon Sindhu started to read Sung Ji's movements and selection of shots which is the 21-year-old's biggest strength. Sung Ji was soon struggling to get her rhythm back and eventually Sindhu went on to seal a place in the final against the woman who stopped her from grabbing the gold medal in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
"I hope it is not a repeat (of Rio), just a rematch. There will be huge support. I could see she was getting good support from fans today. I hope I get all the support (in the final)," said Sindhu.
They might be good friends off the court but Sindhu says they leave that behind when the come on the court. "On court you will see our aggression. This title means a lot as it is my home ground," she added.
Marin, though, looked confident about beating Sindhu at home. "'It will be a different match (than Rio). She is a tough opponent. For everyone it will be a rematch from the Olympic final but for us it will be a new chapter in our rivalry. She will have the home support, but it will surely be an interesting match.
"I gave my everything at the Olympics and it is not always that one can perform at such level. After the Olympics, I have not been at my best but I am doing better. I am ready to win a few titles this year, " 2016 Olympic champion Marin said about the mouthwatering clash with Sindhu.
Regardless of who wins on Sunday, this rivalry is just gathering pace and could well become the most anticipated clash the sport will ever witness in future.
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Updated Date: Apr 02, 2017 14:11:30 IST