PV Sindhu was really looking nervous and had butterflies in her stomach as she walked into the court for her final match in the Commonwealth Games 2022. Sindhu was chasing that elusive gold medal. In the 2014 edition, she got a bronze having lost to Canada’s player Michele Li in the semi-final and in 2018 she had lost to Saina Nehwal in the final.
So she was really determined to crack the puzzle this time. But though the draw looked easy on paper, her journey to the final was not without hiccups. After strolling through first couple of rounds comfortably she ran into Goh Jin Wei from Malaysia and almost got stuck. The twice former world junior champion kept the top seed in check. Starting off at furious pace, Wei stunned Sindhu by winning the first game 21-19. Almost in panic mode, but the Indian shuttling queen knew she had to play with ease and do something drastic.
Going into an all-out attack she took the battle to Wei and put huge pressure on the opponent and won the second game 21-14. In the third, she led 11-7 and again 13-7 before the Malaysian made a last ditch effort to push Sindhu on the backfoot and came as close as 12-13 and kept pace to till 18-18, before Sindhu pulled away to a 21-18 win and entered the semifinals, where she played Yao Jia Ming of Singapore and prevailed 21-19, 21-17 in 46 minutes. This was also too close for comfort, but Sindhu was always ahead by a point or two.
She was now to face Canadian veteran Li in the final. But Sindhu was a transformed player in the gold medal match. She was in her element as she made Li dance to her tunes. Even an Achilles strain on the left ankle did not deter her from claiming the gold 21-15, 21-13, a gold that had eluded her for almost a decade. Says former chief national coach Vimal Kumar,” She did enough to win at a canter. Michelle Li was one step behind all the time. Li was outclassed in every department. This gold medal will help Sindhu’s psychology as she goes into the world championship”.
All in all, 8th August 2022 will be remembered for a long time to come as the red letter day in the annals of Indian badminton. This day Indian badminton truly arrived. By winning three gold medals in one day of finals of the CWG, we made our intentions very clear that we are at our legitimate place in hierarchy of world badminton.
The Stroke of Luck for Satwiksairaj Rankareddy and Chirag Shetty
In every champion’s career, there is a luck factor that propels them to reach higher heights. Satwiksairaj Rankareddy and Chirag Shetty, the second seeds in the CWG and world ranked 8 were supposed to meet Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik of Malaysia the top seeds. The Malaysian duo had played the Indians 5 times and won all these encounters.
But the English pair of Sean Vendy and Ben Lane stopped the Malaysians in their tracks winning 19-21, 21-18, 21-4. It was apparent that Soh Wooi Yin was having an injured right knee. Whatever it may be, the Indians could not have thought of a better final. Silver medalist four years back, they now had a ‘God sent’ chance to win the gold here at Birmingham. The Indians were far too swift, far too aggressive and their net control was superb. The English duo were outmaneuvered with ease. We won 21-15, 21-13 to bring India the second gold.
All badminton followers of the country were hoping for an all India final in men’s singles between Lakshya Sen and Kidambi Srikanth. But that did not happen as in his semifinals against world no 42 Ng Tze Yang, Srikanth came a cropper losing in three games. The 22-year-old from Kuala Lumpur has got lightning speed on court coverage and can hit from deep baseline, yet reaches the net in fraction of a second.
The final was the fastest match I have seen in my 52 years in the game, says an ecstatic Vimal Kumar, “I am very impressed by Lakshya today. Even though he lost the first game 19-21 he never got flustered and kept his cool. I also could see that he was mixing the attack and defence nicely and this ensured that Tze Yang was out of the rhythm and the long rallies really frustrated him.”
Congratulations champion @lakshya_sen. I am remembering you now as a 11 year old when you won in Singapore 2011. Proud of your progress. @BAI_Media @himantabiswa @Infy_Foundation @YonexSunriseIn @Media_SAI @Sports_PDCSE @OGQ_India pic.twitter.com/S8yxgTLhdB
— Vimal Kumar (@vimalkumar_u) August 8, 2022
In fact, long fast rallies took a lot out of the Malaysian, who literally gave up the second game and tried to concentrate on the third game. And this was a mistake as the 20-year-old Indian ace took early leads and held the game in a vice like grip.
This was a nail-biting and edge-of-the-seat encounter.
Vimal who has coached and mentored Sen in Bengaluru from age 10, was astonished at the impossible looking retrieves of his ward.” His defence is out of this world. I don’t know how he does it. He got back impossible smashes. And he is still so young,” he can only get better, warns Vimal.
An evening before the men’s singles gold medal match, Vimal sent a text to Lakshya advising him how to counter his opponent in the medal clash.
“In tomorrow’s finals, Be sharp from the beginning. If your dribbles are working well, use that to get opening to attack. You be ready as well to defend his smashes and make him work. He has already played 2 tough matches, hence physically you have the advantage. When you are lifting from the net, if there is side drift, do not try to play too much to the corners. As long as you keep a good length ,that’s good enough. Use your attacking clears at times. If you are able to score through your smashes like in Delhi do it. Be alert for his sharp drop shots and also his cross hard smashes from around the head area. When you flick service, be alert. Play confidently and be cool. You can win in 2 games. All the best champ,” Vimal texted the ace Indian shuttler.
In the second game down 6-8, he rattled off 15 points in the trot. This was by far the match of the CWG. From the start of the decider, the Indian took leads of 9-5, 15-9 and 18-11, and never looked back, carving out one of the most memorable victories to get India’s its third gold.
The mixed doubles saw Ashwini Ponappa and Sumeet Reddy crash out in the first game while in ladies doubles Gayatri and Treesa lost in the semifinals to eventual gold medal winners, and went on to claim a memorable bronze medal.