World Badminton Championships 2017: PV Sindhu's big-match expertise makes her firm favourite for gold
With age on her side and having shown her ability to handle pressure from both the sport and the expectations of millions of Indians, Sindhu is now the toast of the nation
By winning the bronze medal in the 2013 World Championships in China, Pusarla Venkata Sindhu became the first Indian woman to win an individual medal at the event.
In the following year, Sindhu repeated the feat in Copenhagen to become the first Indian to win two medals at the World Championships.
Sindhu's consecutive victories in the Macau Open from 2013 to 2015 made her the first Indian woman to successfully defend a Grand Prix Gold event twice.
In addition to these victories, PV Sindhu also became the first Indian woman to win an individual silver medal in an Olympic Games.
She was also the youngest Indian to ever be facilitated on an Olympic podium.
Sindhu might also be the most decorated deputy collector in the Andhra Pradesh government with two World Championship medals, one Olympic medal, six Grand Prix Gold championships, one Superseries and a Superseries Premier championship to her name.
It is a sign of her growing prowess that the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and Arjuna awardee accomplished all these before she turned 22.
The 22-year-old Sindhu goes into her fourth World Championships as one of the firm favourites in this year's tournament starting on 21 August in Glasgow.
She first broke into the top 20 of World rankings in 2013 and has stayed there ever since, reaching a career-high of World No 2 earlier this year.
The 5'11" athlete, who towers above most of her opponents, literally and figuratively, is a product of the famed Pullela Gopichand Academy.
If it was Saina Nehwal's bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics that sowed the seeds of badminton's interest in India, it was a case of perfect culmination of talent and timing that Sindhu's rise coincided with the rise of the sport across the country.
With age on her side and having shown her ability to handle pressure from both the sport and the expectations of millions of Indians, Sindhu is now the toast of the nation.
Along with the men's singles players like Kidambi Srikanth and B Sai Praneeth, Sindhu and Saina are spearheading the golden age of Indian badminton that now has 12 men and 6 women in the top 100.
Sindhu started this year as World No 6 and consolidated that ranking by winning the Syed Modi International Badminton Championships (Grand Prix Gold event).
In her next event of the year, the All England Open, she lost to World No 1 Tai Tzu Ying in the quarter-final. Sindhu trails 3-7 in head-to-head meetings against the Chinese Taipei shuttler with her last win coming in the Round of 16 of the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Sindhu bounced back to win her first India Open Superseries defeating Spain's Carolina Marin. her Olympic finalist, in the title clash. She also beat compatriots Saina Nehwal and Arundhati Pantawane en route to her maiden Superseries title.
While World No 4 Carolina narrowly leads Sindhu in the head-to-head meetings (6-5), Saina is tied with her at one match a piece.
Though she reached a career-high ranking of 2, albeit briefly, in the month of April, Sindhu had early exits losing to Carolina Marin in the quarter-final of the Singapore Open and once again to Tai Tzu Ying at the Australian Open.
Having favourable head-to-head records with most of the players in the top 10, Sindhu will definitely enter the Glasgow Championships as firm favourite.
At the World Badminton Championships, she drew a bye in the first round and will face the winner of South Korea's Kim Hyo Min or Egypt's Hadia Hosny in the second round. With China's Sun Yu being her prospective quarter-final opponent, Sindhu has a lot on her plate and would want to win the match and level the head-to-head record she has with the Chinese shuttler.
Since 2011, India has won a medal in every World Championships and looking at the 21-member contingent that will compete in the 2017 tournament, the winning trend might just continue.
In a competition like the World Championships where most of the top-ranked athletes come into the event well-rested, it is anybody's game and all that matters is the performance on that day.
As PV Sindhu has time and again proved, she is one of India's best big-match players and her road to Tokyo 2020 and attaining the World No 1 ranking begins in Glasgow, Scotland.
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