At 17, Pusarla Venkata Sindhu is still growing rapidly. Not just in terms of height (she is five feet eleven inches tall), but also in stature, in the world of badminton. The gifted shuttler, who learnt her basics under Mehboob Ali at IRISET Indoor Stadium, is already being tipped by India’s chief National coach P. Gopi Chand as the next player to watch out for from India.

“She has the talent and the willingness to do that extra bit more in training, just like Saina. This is what separates players like these two from others,” says Gopi Chand.

Sindhu, daughter of former volleyball international and Arjuna awardee P.V. Ramana, first caught the attention of the experts when she won the age group title in an event organised by AP Badminton Players Association’s Vijayraghavan and Manoj Kumar a few years ago.

Then she joined Dronacharya S.M. Arif and later Gopi Chand, even before he started his academy. “There is no better learning experience than training with players like Saina. She and Gopi are a huge influence on me,” says Sindhu.

The World juniors quarterfinal appearance a couple of years ago, the senior National title and Asian under-19 title, to name a few milestones, are reminders of her talent and ability to perform under different conditions.

Sindhu’s stunning quarterfinal victory over reigning Olympic gold medallist Li Xuerui in the China Masters may not have been expected, but Gopi Chand believes that she had it in her to raise the bar under pressure.

Even London Olympics bronze medallist Saina termed this young champion’s win over Xuerui “as a great effort which should do the young shuttler a world of good in terms of confidence.”

Height, an advantage

Sindhu, a B.Com first year student of St. Ann’s College (Mehdipatnam) and supported by Olympic Gold Quest and BPCL, is slowly converting her athletic physique into a major plus point. There were serious questions whether her height could be a handicap. But her success rate is proof of how well she is coping.

“I think my height is an advantage especially when I go for those deep returns in the corners. I can’t have the same strategy for different players. I need to change as per the challenges that crop up,” says a mature Sindhu.

Sindhu joined Gopi Chand at a younger age than Saina and so the results are predictable to some extent. She makes a conscious effort not to invite pressure by imagining herself as a Saina in the making. “I just want to be Sindhu. Though I am a huge fan of Saina’s game and commitment,” she insists.

At the Gopi Chand Academy, it is a regular sight to see Gopi Chand and Sindhu partnering against Saina in training sessions.

“These things help a lot, for I get to pick up so many important tips. After all, one is a former All England champion and the other India’s best women’s shuttler,” Sindhu concludes.

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