The best sports news, this week, came in the form of PV Sindhu winning her second Grand Prix Gold title of the year on Sunday at the Macau open. This was a big morale boosting victory for the 18-year-old Sindhu, winner of Malaysian Open in May 2013. In a nearly one-sided final in Macau, the tournament top seed Sindhu defeated seventh seeded Canada’s world no. 30, Michelle Li 21-15 21-12 in just 37 minutes. With this result, Sindhu appeared to have overcome her recent poor performances in several tournaments, since the Malaysian open. A product of the P. Gopichand Badminton Academy, PV Sindhu is the next rising star from India after Saina Nehwal.
In Macau, Sindhu played brilliantly through the tournament. In the semifinal she had some hiccups against a much lower ranked player Qin Jinjing of China. In the match lasting 68 minutes, Sindhu overcame the Chinese 21-13, 18-21, 21-19. Though the score line suggests a hard-fought battle, the Indian top seed played a much superior game.
After her win, Sindhu is sure to gain in confidence, which appeared to be waning for some time. Other than the triumph in the Malaysian Open, Sindhu had a semifinal run at India Open Super Series, culminating in the bronze medal at World Championships. Since Prakash Padukone’s bronze in 1983, she is the only other Indian to have achieved such distinction. The government of India conferred to her the Arjuna Award for notable sporting achievement. However, Sindhu suffered some ignominious losses lately, which included; a second-round exit in Japan Open, first-round loss in Denmark Open Super Series and she was beaten by a lowly placed Scotswoman Kirsty Gilmour in the French Open.
Sindhu’s victory also brings laurels to the Gopichand Badminton Academy, which has been relentless in its efforts to raise the standards of Indian Badminton. Leaving cricket aside, funding and sponsoring other major sports in India is extremely difficult, if not impossible. Finding and nurturing talents requires plenty of dedication and, of course, huge sums of money. In this context the single-minded devotion of India’s former badminton star, Pullela Gopichand is extremely commendable and praiseworthy. At the age of 28, which, by no means, is an old age, Gopichand began setting up his now famous Badminton Academy in the Gachibowli area in the city of Hyderabad. Most of the current world famous Indian shuttlers have been trained by Gopichand and they are all thankful for their trainer’s undying spirit and focused devotion. Other than PV Sindhu, the academy has also been instrumental in training world-ranked badminton stars like Saina Nehwal, P Kashyap, Sai Praneeth and Gurusai Datt.
While PV Sindhu is the current rising star of the Badminton world, another rare gem from the Gopichand Academy is Saina Nehwal, who owes her tremendous success to the regulations and discipline that prevails in the academy. Gopichand knew that the sport was literally monopolized by a string of Chinese players, who undergo serious and rigorous grind under no-nonsense trainers in China. While he could not replicate everything that exists in Chinese academies, he has still been able to create a training center, where shuttlers have to undergo a disciplined and hardworking regime. Sindhu’s impressive performance at her age reflects the ingrained virtues, imbibed in the academy.
Sindhu made news in August this year with a bronze medal at the world championships in Guangzhou. Fearing that she will invite comparison with Saina Nehwal, Gopichand told media that such comparison is very unfair. Saina is 23 and has already won 16 major international titles. Sindhu is just 18 and this is merely a start for her. While both girls are gifted with an aggressive game, there are some small differences. Nehwal is 23 and her tremendous focus on the game has helped her create a niche for herself. She has also won an Olympic bronze for the country at the London Olympics. However, Nehwal is just 5’6” in height. In contrast, Sindhu stands 6’ tall and she is just 18. If she works as hard as Nehwal did, with a single-minded focus, Sindhu can scale new heights. Gopichand will be a proud man, if such a thing could happen.