HYDERABAD: It was so near, yet so far for PV Sindhu. The lanky shuttler gave it her all, but still had to settle for silver in the World Championships. In the one-hour 50 minute slugfest, the longest match of the tournament so far, Sindhu lost the title 19-21, 22-20, 20-22 to Nozomi Okuhara of Japan on Sunday.
The 22-year-old shuttlers were involved in perhaps the best women’s singles final with all the strokes, dribbles or drives on display. Only six points across three sets separated Sindhu and Nozomi. Sindhu saved a championship point trailing 19-20, but luck deserted her as the Japanese girl scored the next two.
It was all over once Nozomi’s drop puzzled Sindhu at 21-20 and the Indian girl was crestfallen. Nozomi became the first Japanese women’s singles champion while Sindhu is the second Indian after Saina to secure silver. Unlike at the Olympics when she recovered fast to congratulate the eventual champion Carolina Marin, Sindhu took a lot of time and looked deeply hurt after the loss.
After mowing down Chen Yufei of China in straight sets in the semifinals on Saturday, Sindhu was the clear favourite in the final. She even played like one and led 11-5 at the break. But Nozomi came back strong, hitting the shuttle hard and returning everything. The Japanese girl surprised the Indian with her guile and retrieving ability. From 10-14, Nozomi came up with an eight-point burst and dominated thereafter.
Sindhu started on a strong note after losing the first game and both players indulged in lengthy rallies. With Sindhu ahead 15-13, she won a rally which lasted 43 shots.
That gave the Indian a lot of confidence as she powered ahead to 20-17. But Nozomi was so determined that she saved three game points before both players delighted the crowd with the longest rally of the match. Sindhu won that 73-shot rally and clinched the game 22-20.
At the start of the third game both players looked tired but their will to win the title kept the contest alive till the last point. The fact that the game itself lasted a good 46 points (the time usually taken to finish three games) is an indication of the intense battle. This is the third medal for Sindhu after the two bronze medals at the 2013 and 2014 championships.
Delighted with her victory, Nozomi thanked her fans. “I am extremely delighted to become the world champion and I thank everyone for supporting me. It was very tough and I am tired,” she added.