Basel, August 25
PV Sindhu scripted history as she became the first Indian to win badminton’s World Championships when she crushed arch-rival Nozomi Okuhara of Japan in a lopsided final today.
The Rio Olympics silver-medallist won 21-7 21-7 in the final that lasted just 38 minutes. Two years ago, Sindhu had been robbed of gold by Okuhara in an epic 110-minute final at Glasgow, considered as one of the greatest battles in badminton history. Today, the Indian star finally exorcised the ghost of that heart-wrenching loss with a completely dominant win over the same opponent.
Sindhu raced to an 8-1 lead in the first game as she targeted the deep corners and unleashed her big smashes to gather points at will. A precise net shot helped Okuhara to snap Sindhu’s run of straight eight points but the Indian quickly got the control back when Okuhara went wide. Sindhu then unleashed two smashes to enter the break with an 11-2 lead. At 16-2, Sindhu committed a couple of unforced errors before again taking control of the match. Sindhu eventually earned 13 game points when Okuhara went long, and sealed the first game with shot at Okuhara, who could only send the shuttle out. In the second game, Sindhu grabbed two quick points before Okuhara earned a point with a crosscourt smash. Okuhara seemed clueless as she ended up hitting the net or missing the lines to allow Sindhu to grab 11-4 lead at the interval.
At 16-4, Sindhu made a couple of rare errors when she hit long but that did not matter as she pounced on a weak return from Okuhara and sent it to the backline, and then left her rival stranded with another powerful smash. Sindhu won a point away from the title when Okuhara went long again, and sealed the match and championship with a down-the-line smash, which Okuhara could only to push into the net.
Twin gold for Bhagat
India’s Pramod Bhagat made a strong comeback to defeat England’s Daniel Bethell and clinch his third title in the men’s singles SL3 category at the BWF Para Badminton World Championships. It was world No. 1 Bhagat’s second gold in this World Championships having won his men’s doubles SL3-4 title on the penultimate day of the competitions.
Bhagat and his partner Manoj Sarkar came from a game down to defeat compatriots Nitesh Kumar and Tarun Dhillon 14-21 21-15 21-16 in the final. The SL3 category is meant for players who have minor standing/lower limb impairment while the SL4 category is for those who have severe conditions of the SL3. Overall, India finished with 12 medals, including three gold. Though the total number of medals is same as in the 2015 Worlds, but back then India had four gold, making it their best-ever show. — PTI
MEN’S SINGLES: Kento Momota bt Anders Antonsen 21-9 21-3
WOMEN’S DOUBLES: M Matsumoto/W Nagahara bt Y Fukushima/S Hirota 21-11 20-22 23-21
MIXED DOUBLES: Z Si Wei/H Ya Qiong bt D Puavaranukroh/S Taerattanachai 21-8 21-12
MEN’S DOUBLES: M Ahsan/H Setiawan bt T Hoki/Y Kobayashi 25-23 9-21 21-15
1 First gold medallist for India in badminton’s World C’ships, which started in 1977
5 World Championships medals for PV Sindhu, matching the record of Chinese legend Zhang Ning, who too won 1 gold, 2 silver and 2 bronze in the event
5 Medals for Sindhu in the World Championships: 1 gold (2019), 2 silver (2018, 2017) and 2 bronze (2014, 2013)
3 RD Time lucky for Sindhu, who had lost to Carolina Marin of Spain and Okuhara in the last two finals
9-7 Head-to-head record in favour of Sindhu against Nozomi Okuhara after the final
6 Years in a row that India have won at least one medal at the World C’ships
3 Other Indians have won singles medals at the World Championships: Prakash Padukone (men’s bronze in 1983), Saina Nehwal (women’s silver in 2015, bronze in 2017), and B Sai Praneeth (men’s bronze in 2019)
1 Women’s pair from India has won a World Championships medal: Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa won bronze in women’s doubles in 2011