With 50 days left for the start of the Tokyo Olympics, it is more-or-less the home stretch as far as preparations are concerned for PV Sindhu, one of India’s medal favourites at the Games. The 2019 world champion is in the middle of fine-tuning surprises for her opponents, she revealed on Thursday.
Sindhu explained how the Olympics is the convergence of the best talent in the world in their peak form. In normal tournaments, some may be off peak, some off the boil, but every four years, they all come in to win gold and nothing less. So, it is paramount to acquire new skills and techniques to surprise rivals, who all happen to be at the same level as her but with distinct playing styles.
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"In the women's circuit the players in the top-10 are of the same standard. You can't take it easy, if one player is not there," Sindhu, the world No. 7, said, talking about the absence of Rio Olympics gold medallist and former world champion Carolina Marin. Marin, who beat Sindhu in the final in Rio, has pulled out of the Olympics following a knee injury.
"There is Tai Tzu Ying, Ratchanok Intanon, (Nozomi) Okuhara and (Akane) Yamaguchi. They are all good players. You can't say, it will be easy if one player is missing. I can't relax and need to be focussed and give my best," the 25-year-old added.
Sindhu feels the pandemic-induced break has given her time to rectify mistakes in her game and add something into her arsenal.
"There are a couple of tricky players like Ratchanok. She is very skillful. We have to look after them,” she said. “For me, it's a very good time to improve my technique and skill. I have improved. It's good that I have got so much time.
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“Usually we don't get time to rectify mistakes or learn new skills,” added Sindhu.
“It takes time. So this was the time and I am using it. I hope, at the Olympics, there will be some new techniques and skills."
The biggest challenge Sindhu faces will be from the Chinese contingent. The top players from China invariably peak at the Olympics. And they are very secretive as far as last-minute preparations are concerned. Ahead of Tokyo, not much is known about their current form since they have been missing from the circuit for some time.
"They have not played for a long time. We have not seen them. Chen Yu (Fei) and He Bing Jiao, the left hander, her skills are good. At the Olympics, it's completely different, the game, the pressure. You can't expect easy wins.”
Sindhu is focused on sharpening her strong points, and ironing out the chinks.
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"Attack is my strong point. The rivals know my game so I am working on my defence as well. I am tall, so my attack is good. I have to be prepared for all strokes, for everything," she said.
Sindhu will be India’s lone challenge in the women’s singles segment at the Games with Saina Nehwal missing out on the Olympics due to cancellation of qualifying events. Kidambi Srikanth in the men’s segment also missed out.
"It would have been good if they were there. No one knew that there would be such a situation. Everyone tried hard but the tournaments were unfortunately cancelled because of the safety of the athletes. Life comes first. At the Olympics also, we will be tested everyday." she said.
Sindhu, however, is positive that neither being the lone woman in the mix nor the enormity of the occasion would affect her. Unlike Rio, she is seasoned now and also has tasted success on the world stage. She knows now what it takes to win big tournaments.
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