P.V. Sindhu’s bold shot at the Olympic gold was competently handled by two-time World Champion Carolina Marin, as the Spaniard prevailed 19-21, 21-12, 21-15 at the Riocentro Pavilion on Friday.
The 21-year-old Sindhu joined shooters Rajyavardhan Singh Rathore, Vijay Kumar and wrestler Sushil Kumar to win the Olympic silver for India. Even though she tried hard and was intense throughout, Sindhu was unable to match Carolina who played a solid game and was quite fluent with her strokes, especially at the net.
In fact, it was a fortuitous turn that saw Sindhu, trailing 16-19, jumping into the lead to clinch the first game and the initiative. Carolina was unusually unsure and fumbled with her shots at that stage, leading to a string of mistakes.
It was a 52-shot rally that Sindhu had won to bridge the gap to 16-17, before an error from her and a smash by Carolina saw the Spaniard jump ahead with what proved to be her last points in the first game.
Sindhu made a reflex shot to get out of trouble and clinch the game on the first set point. It was too much of a dream to win five points on the trot, from such a position, against such a champion. It did not last long.
True to her nature, Marin, who played well throughout the match, and reacted to the shuttle pretty sharp most of the time, composed herself quickly and attacked with renewed vigour to take a 11-2 lead in the seocnd game.
Sindhu struggled with her judgment and strokes. The wiry Indian, who had won two medals in the World Championships, kept looking at coach P. Gopi Chand for the solutions to all her problems.
Dronacharya coach Gopi Chand kept guiding and encouraging Sindhu to play her game, but the execution did not match the knowledge, for sheer lack of experience on the big stage for the young girl.
Yet, Sindhu had done well to go one step forward, after former World No.1 Saina Nehwal had won the bronze medal in the last Olympics in London in 2012.Carolina was a class act as she won the second game, to be on par. The stylish left-hander came up with two gems, two cross court drops from the two corners of the court, one after the other, that saw Sindhu rooted to the ground.
For sheer deception and perfection of execution, Carolina was razor sharp this day.
In the third game also, Carolina jumped up to a 6-1 lead, and Sindhu started opening up and playing close to her attacking best to bridge the gap, and be on par at 10-10. Carolina was cool and shot ahead winning six of the next nine points, thanks mainly to her accuracy of judgment.
Even then, at 16-14, it was anybody’s game. It was Carolina who handled the climax like a champion, tapping quick and conjuring up drop shots at will to set up six match-points at 20-14. She missed the first, but delivered on the second, sending PV Sindhu diving desperately for an irretrievable shot.
It was time to celebrate for Carolina and she was sprawled on the court, thanking her stars, for many seconds before Sindhu walked around to congratulate her, heartily, like a true sport.
Interestingly, like Rajyavardhan Rathore and Vijay Kumar, the shooters, Sindhu also won the Olympic silver medal on maiden appearance.
When all the attention was on Saina Nehwal the star in Indian badminton, Sindhu stayed in the shadow before serving the bolt from the blue. She played fantastic, much above her stature as a top-10 player for the precious Olympic medal, beating some of the best along the way.
The Badminton Associaiton of India announced Rs.50 lakh for Sindhu and Rs. 10 lakh for her coach Gopi Chand.
It is time to enjoy the fruits of labour, before Sindhu gears up for bigger achievements with all the education she has acquired from the Games.