Glasgow: PV Sindhu’s gallant effort to become India’s first ever World Champion ended in a heart-wrenching defeat against Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara in an epic final, here Sunday.
In the longest match of the tournament, which tested the physical and mental strength of both the players, Sindhu lost 19-21 22-20 20-22 after battling hard for one hour and 49 minutes.
Their bodies were falling apart as the match progressed but both Sindhu and Okuhara used every ounce of energy left in them to make it an epic contest.
After closing the second game by winning an incredible 73-shot rally, Sindhu saved one championship point in the decider but it was the Rio Olympic bronze medallist who had the last laugh.
For India, it still is a historic edition since for the first time country’s shuttler are returning with two medals.
Saina Nehwal won a bronze yesterday after losing her semifinal.
India had one silver and four bronze in the World Championships before this edition.
Prakash Padukone was the first Indian to win a medal when he took a bronze in the men’s singles in 1983 before the women’s doubles pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa bagged another bronze in 2011.
Rio Olympic silver medallist Sindhu came into the match with a 3-all head-to-head record against Okuhara. But the Indian had an upper hand in their last two meetings — Rio Olympics and 2017 Singapore Open.
Sindhu, seeded fourth, was a little sluggish to start with and was 3-5 at one point but she managed to reel off eight points on the trot to grab an 11-5 lead at the break.
The Indian used her height to good use, retrieving the shuttles quickly and started using her cross court returns to trouble the Japanese.
Sindhu showed good anticipation and used deception well to move to a 13-8 lead but the pint-sized Japanese changed gears and started dictating the rallies. She first clawed back to 14-14 when Sindhu faltered with her return serve before grabbing the lead.
Okuhara continued to move ahead, reaching 18-14 after winning 10 of the 13 points after the interval. However, the Japanese committed a few unforced errors, which helped Sindhu to level par at 19-19.
Sindhu, then sent one to the net to hand over the game point to Okuhara, who pocketed the opening game when the Indian hit long.
After the change of side, Okuhara struggled to control her lifts and also miscued a few shots as Sindhu led 5-1 when her rival’s smash found the net. Sindhu made some sound judgements at the baseline and tried to be patient on the court to extend the lead to 9-3.
However, Sindhu failed to reach for a low forehand return at forecourt and sent the shuttle wide thrice as Okuhara reached 7-9 before unleashing a down the line smash.
A net error stopped Okuhara’s run as Sindhu eventually held a 11-8 lead at the interval when her rival again went wide.
At 15-13, another exceptional rally unfolded with Sindhu making the Japanese run to the deep corners and even though Okuhara made some remarkable retrieves she miscued a shot at the forecourt as Sindhu led 16-13.
Okuhara brought more power to her smashes to breach Sindhu’s defence and created acute angles with her wrist to reduce the margin to 16-17. Two backhand returns and a block at the net helped Sindhu move to 18-16. An extraordinary net return gave her another point and she grabbed the game point when Okuhara went long.