PV Sindhu went down fighting to Spain’s Carolina Marin in the gold medal match of the badminton women’s singles at the Rio Olympics on Friday, clinching silver for India’s second medal at the Games.
Sindhu won the first game 21-19, recovering from a 16-19 deficit to win five points on the trot and take the game. But two-time world champion Marin jumped out to a quick lead in the second game and held on to it, using her favourite combination of a drop shot followed by a smash at the net to win quick points.
In the deciding game, Sindhu fought hard to erase Marin’s initial lead to trail 11-10 at the break. But she lost her momentum after the break and couldn’t catch up in the end. What a performance from both players. Sindhu can carry her head high.
Indeed, it is a remarkable achievement for the 21-year-old shuttler at her first Olympic games, coming as it did with five wins in a row, the last two of which came over the world No 2 and No 5 respectively. On the biggest day of her career, Sindhu never stopped fighting and has won the biggest prize in the history of Indian badminton – an Olympic silver, to go past Saina Nehwal’s bronze four years ago in London.
Sindhu, the last of India’s shuttlers at the Games, struggled during the initial exchanges, in particular against some lovely drop shots from the left-hander. Down 3-7, then 5-8 and 5-9, then 10-13. There was Sindhu for a period, at once on her knees, made to look uncomfortable, her brow furrowed as she looked at her racquet net. But she fought hard, reducing twice the deficit to a solitary point as Marin committed a flurry of errors.
Marin smashed one to lead 19-16. Surely the game was hers? No, no. Sindhu persevered, returning serves with precision and power, and the scoreline went from 17-19 to 18-19 to 19-19 and then 20-19 as chants of ‘jeetega bhai jeetega’ reverberated from the sizable Indian support in the stands. It was nail-biting badminton.
Then Marin messed up a return against a superb flick from Sindhu, forced to turn as she ran backward, and the shuttle flopped in her half. Sindhu roared, pumped her fists. The first game was hers.
But Marin is a champion, and went up 4-0 in the second game, then 8-2. Her shots and returns regained a heartbeat, she pushed Sindhu into errors and the momentum was snatched back. A nine-point advantage was punctuated by a ferocious smash to which Sindhu had no answer. The rest of the game saw Sindhu frustrated repeatedly, and despite scattered moments of aggression she fell behind 12-21.