“It’s been good so far…I have been working to make my game more deceptive as I want to take my opponents by surprise. I have been working on smaller targets that we have set to achieve. I am working towards achieving those and fine-tuning my game,” said Sindhu on Friday before departing for Basel, Switzerland, where she will take part in the World Championships next week.
To give that cutting edge to her deceptive strokes, Sindhu has extended her training sessions and is fine-tuning her game with KiSouth Korean coach Kim Ji Hyun.
The World Championships is the platform where the Hyderabadi gained recognition for the first time, claiming bronze in 2013. It is the event which gave Sindhu the status of a big-tournament player.
She lived up to her billing and added one more bronze and two silver in the following years, making her the only Indian to win four medals at the World Championships. Her closest rival is Saina Nehwal, who has two—a silver and a bronze. But despite reaching the finals in the last two editions, she lost to Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara in 2017 and Spaniard Carolina Marin last year.
This time around, the fifth-seeded Sindhu has already progressed to the women’s singles second round with a bye. But it isn’t an easy draw. After what is likely to be an easy second round, the world No 5 will likely be up against American ninth seed Beiwen Zhang in Round 3. If she wins, the Indian will face Chinese Taipei’s second-seeded Tai Tzu Ying in the quarter-finals, someone who has a healthy 10-4 record against Sindhu.
“I have prepared well. I have been working closely with coach Kim for the last few months. I will give my best and want to win a medal. There is no doubt that it is a big tournament, but I am going to play one match at a time and will treat the matches as just another game. I will play to win and have prepared for it,” said Sindhu, who recently completed her MBA (finance).
Though the tournament calendar is the same as last year, 2019 holds special significance as many top tournaments will be part of the Olympic qualification process. The quadrennial sporting extravaganza naturally makes athletes think, work, prepare differently, and Sindhu is no different.
“It is the Olympic qualification year, so staying at the top, both physically and mentally, will be the key. The coaches and the team have put together a good preparatory schedule. There have been areas in my skills, and physically too, that I needed to work on,” said Sindhu.
“After coming back from Malaysia and Japan, I have spent long hours training in the hope of winning a medal for the country.” That training bore fruit when she reached the final of the Indonesia Open in Jakarta last month, her first summit clash in eight tournaments and seven months.
Despite being a seasoned campaigner, does rising expectation from the public put pressure on her? “I don’t think so. My job is to play and I just concentrate on that.”