Only last month, P.V. Sindhu became old enough to have a driving licence. Possessing an admirable temperament for an 18-year-old, the youngster grabbed the first available opportunity to steer her way to a rare World championship medal.
Her back-to-back straight-game victories over two former World number one Chinese — defending champion Wang Yihan and Wang Shixian — have not only ensured India its first women’s singles medal from the premier championship but also proved on the global stage that the country has another performing lady besides Saina Nehwal.
Her growth as a player in the past year has been very encouraging. Daughter of volleyball players Vijaya and Arjuna Awardee P.V. Ramana, Sindhu broke into the top-25 list among the ladies and rose to a career-high ranking of 11 this May.
Currently ranked 12th, Sindhu is set to break into the top-10 following her superlative show in Guangzhau.
This triumph will obviously galvanise badminton in the country and could take it beyond the heights achieved by Saina.
What makes Sindhu so special? Her five-feet-six inch frame allows her to catch the shuttle early and hit some awesome flat tosses and half-smashes. Her court-coverage is electric, thanks to her surprisingly smooth footwork coupled with good anticipation.
Though Sindhu won the National title in January last, it was her triumph in the Asian youth (under-19) championship that gave her the self-belief to go for bigger challenges.
In September, she caught the attention of the badminton world when she stunned home favourite and reigning Olympic gold medallist Li Xuerui in the China Masters. Though she could not retain her National crown in October, losing to Sayali Gokhale in the final, at Srinagar, the pain of an unexpected defeat proved a gain.
Praise from champions
Former National champion Manjusha Kanwar feels the loss to Sayali could not have come at a better time. “It was a tough loss for Sindhu but resulted in getting her focus back. She braved an injury and came out stronger.
“With Saina and P. Kashyap on adjacent courts, Sindhu had the advantage of watching some world class players train. With some great support system available at Gopi Chand’s Academy and adequate overseas exposure, Sindhu could not have asked for anything better.”
Dinesh Khanna, former Asian champion, is all praise for Sindhu’s strokes. “Some of her strokes are simply irretrievable. So incisive, I am amazed. To beat such high ranked players is no joke. Her temperament is just right.
“More importantly, she is not easily satisfied with her victories. After a big win, sometimes, complacency creeps in. But she proved that she is hungry for more.
Gopi Chand, who has groomed Sindhu since she was eight, is waiting for Sindhu to bloom. “Let us not forget that she is still a very young girl. At 18, she has her share of attractions and distractions to deal with.
“I give her two years to turn into a true world beater. She has proved that she has the ability to beat some big names. But I am looking for consistency. That will come with time,” says the tough task-master, not easily pleased.