For all those who delighted in PV Sindhu‘s exploits over the years, the champion shuttler’s lean phase this year is worrisome. Two Olympic medals, five World championship medals, including a gold, and a BWF World Tour Finals is not something many Indian shuttlers can boast of and that’s what makes this lean phase more glaring.
Ever since her comeback from a four-month injury layoff in January, Sindhu has struggled for form. In 14 tournaments she has played so far, she has reached one final in Madrid. Worse still, she had seven first round exits, including her 12-21, 13-21 loss to Zhang Yi Man at the Japan Open on Wednesday, two second round losses, one quarterfinal and two semifinal exits this year.
The dip, however, is not of recent making. After a Covid-induced break, she moved out of Gopichand Academy to train separately at Gachibowli Stadium with Korea’s Park Tae-Sang. The Olympic bronze was her only achievement that year. In 2022, she won the CWG gold, Singapore Open Super-500 and two Super-300 tournaments. It was during the Commonwealth Games in August 2022 that she suffered a stress fracture that put her out of action for four months. In the meantime, she parted ways with Park in February and started working with Vidhi Chaudhary.
Sindhu started training with former All England champion Muhammad Hafiz Hashim. Experts reckon Sindhu needs just one title to end the slump. “I think she’s playing well. She lost some close matches. It is only a matter of time before she wins big matches,” said Pullela Gopichand.
Former India coach Vimal Kumar said that Sindhu needs to work on her variations. “She should focus more on her on-court sessions. She should set up different stroke routines, especially on her approach to the net and focus on dominating there. She has a good attack and if she can work on variations there, it will give her more opportunities to finish a rally,” said Vimal.
“She also needs a clear mind,” said Vimal. “At present, she appears unsure of when to attack and defend. She has the required strength, hence good on-court sessions with emphasis on skill can help.”
It’s happened before, when she ended her rut with a big title. The only problem is the new crop on the circuit. Young gun An Se Young of South Korea, Japanese world No. 1 Akane Yamaguchi, the invincible Tai Tzu Ying of Taiwan, crafty Carolina Marin of Spain and the great wall of China are the threats Sindhu needs to deal with.
There is no doubt, however, that Sindhu will still be India’s best bet at the Paris Olympics next year along with the men’s duo of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty.