PBL 2020: After beating PV Sindhu, Canada's Michelle Li says playing in league welcome break from travelling alone on World Tour
Post the match, Canada's Michelle Li said that she didn’t opt for a change in tactics from the ones employed in her previous matches, on the World Tour, against PV Sindhu
Michelle Li, playing for North Eastern Warriors, beat PV Sindhu of Hyderabad Hunters 15-8, 15-9
World No 10 Li has lost her last four matches against Sindhu on the BWF World Tour
The Canadian's last win against Sindhu came during the 2014 Glasgow Commonwealth Games
Hyderabad: For Canada’s Michelle Li, using the high-lift serve for the length of her match against reigning world champion PV Sindhu didn’t faze her the least bit.
Knowing full well about world No 6 Sindhu’s attacking prowess, Li trusted her instincts and played to her strengths.
“Everyone knows how well she attacks but I always serve high as it’s something I’m more comfortable with,” said Li, after beating Sindhu 15-8, 15-9, during her team North Eastern Warriors' tie against Hyderabad Hunters' in the Premier Badminton League (PBL) 2020.
Li, who hasn’t beaten Sindhu in four previous meetings on the World Tour, had her work cut out as she walked out to face the Indian in her den.
With the crowd firmly backing her opponent, Li had only her teammates to cheer for her from the North Eastern Warriors dugout.
However, the fans who had thronged the GMC Balayogi Stadium were in for a rude shock as Sindhu succumbed to her errors in the most surprising fashion.
At the outset, it was evident that Li had tamed the drift to her liking when she chose to serve high and invite Sindhu to smash.
Sindhu, on the other hand, found the drift wreaking havoc on her game, the plenty of errors off her racquet handing Li the advantage.
At the mid-game interval in the first game, Li led Sindhu 8-3. The rallies assumed a more gruelling tone thereafter as both players were wary of the drift and hence, chose to wait for their opponent to err. Sindhu, invariably, was the one who blinked first.
When Sindhu chose to smash, Li dove around with alacrity, timing her movements perfectly.
Apart from the wristy flicks at the net, Li was often found going down the line with her smash and then, racing to the net to pound home the winner.
Soon enough, Li closed out the match, winning 2-0 to gain a point for her team North Eastern Warriors, and handing Sindhu, her first loss in this year’s PBL.
However, Hyderabad Hunters did win the tie in the end, bouncing back in the last couple of matches to beat the Warriors 2-1 in the first match of their home leg.
Post the tie, Li spoke of her win against Sindhu, saying that she didn’t opt for a change in tactics from the ones employed in her previous matches on the World Tour against the Indian.
Instead, the win came from Li aiming to get more out of each practice session, leading up to the match.
“It’s just about changing my preparation and learning more from past matches. Most importantly, playing without any pressure,” said Li, the world No 10 in women’s singles.
Expectations: 'The Sindhu Show' @miichelleli: 'Not tonight!'
A formidable performance by her helps her beat the @Hyd_Hunters skipper in straight sets! 🙌🏻
— PBL India (@PBLIndiaLive) January 29, 2020
“I felt like I was playing very well during the first game and judging by the errors she made, I felt like she was feeling the pressure. I tried to keep up the initial momentum I had gained.”
Li’s last win over Sindhu dates back to 2014, at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games. When asked how Sindhu’s game has changed over the years, Li offered some insight into the Indian’s improved court-coverage.
“She’s always been very good while attacking and that’s her obvious strength. Over the past couple of years, I’ve seen her gain tremendous speed on the court, which comes with improved court-coverage,” said Li, who was the gold medallist in women’s singles at the 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Li, who’s one of only two Canadians – the other being World No 43 Brittney Tam – ranked in the top 100 of the Badminton World Federation (BWF) rankings for women’s singles, also talked about her reasons for coming to the PBL this season.
“Coming from Canada, where badminton is not popular, the PBL is a huge deal for me,” said the 28-year-old Li, who remains largely self-funded while competing on the BWF World Tour.
“The huge set-up of the league, the media attention, I love it because I don’t get to see it very often back home.”
Further, Li felt that the PBL would help her immensely in her preparation for the Tokyo Olympics.
“Training with a team helps with some technical insights for your game, which is very helpful for me as while on tour, I’m usually travelling alone.”
Li, who’s the first Canadian to win an individual gold in women’s singles badminton at the Commonwealth Games, also felt that the women’s singles division has changed over the years, with the juggernaut of Chinese and Japanese shuttlers being challenged by many.
The last few years have seen shuttlers like Spain’s Carolina Marin, Denmark's Mia Blichfeldt, USA’s Beiwen Zhang and India’s Sindhu, among others, lead the charge against Chinese and Japanese shuttlers in top-level international tournaments.
Li, who herself features regularly in BWF Superseries events and has notable wins over Chinese shuttlers like the current World No 1 Chen Yufei and World No 21 Han Yue, attributed the development to a change in mindset.
“I think it’s about people believing more and after Thailand and Spain winning the world championships, everyone felt inspired,” said Li.
“That’s something I hope I can do.”
Asked about her assessment of the competition she’s likely to face at the Olympics, Li refrained from picking any favourites, insisting that it could be anybody’s game.
“The women’s singles division has gotten very competitive. Anyone in the top-20 can win on their day so it’s difficult to predict,” Li signed off.
Hockey India announced a full-strength squad instead of a second-string side since the Asian Games were postponed to next year.
The incident occurred during PV Sindhu's women's singles semi-final match of the Badminton Asia Championships in April.
In her glittering career so far, PV Sindhu has clinched two consecutive Olympic medals — Silver in the 2016 Summer Olympics (Rio) and Bronze in 2020 Summer Olympics (Tokyo).