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PV Sindhu hits new low with All England Open first round exit

Published at :March 18, 2023 at 7:49 PM
Modified at :December 13, 2023 at 1:01 PM
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(Courtesy : The Bridge)

Abhiruchi Rout

The World No. 9 shuttler has suffered three opening-round exits.

Ace shuttler PV Sindhu is one of the most accomplished athletes in India. Being the most successful Indian shuttler, many had expected Sindhu to break India’s 22-year drought of lifting the prestigious the All England Open title in 2023. Pullela Gopichand was the last Indian to claim the title in 2001, joining an elite list with Prakash Padukone as the only Indians to win the tournament.

Sindhu on her part has made it to the semi-finals of the All-England Open on a number of occasions but never qualified for the finals. And shockingly exited from the first round in the ongoing edition of the tournament.

While Sindhu did not exactly enter the tournament as an outright favourite, India's title hopes were mostly pinned on her despite first-round exits in both of the individual tournaments that she participated in. Sindhu has in the past shown she could swing form and deliver the big moments. However, year 2023 hasn't been kind to her so far.

Injuries, a sudden change of coach and more importantly dip in form added to other factors have made her often look completely out of place. It showed in the second set against WR 17 Zahng Yiman as Sindhu, World No. 9, went down 17-21, 11-21 in the opening round of All England Open 2023. A third opening round exit this calendar year sandwiched between her only wins in the Badminton Asia Mixed Team Championships (BAMTC), where she also lost her singles match in the semis against China.

Was it injury?

Sindhu has just returned from a five-month injury layoff after a hairline stress fracture ended her 2022 season midway. Has she completely recovered? Sindhu says “it’s fine now," regarding her injury and refuses to add that up as an excuse. But it's the rhythm though that she's taking time with. "You need to get it and then you’ll be there," she told the BWF media after her All England Open exit.

That she's only played three individual tournaments this year could be a reason for her lack of 'rhythm'. Sindhu dived deep into the injury and explained why she was lacking rhythm. “It was a hairline fracture on my left ankle. I stopped after the Commonwealth Games, it took me time because I was immobile. This is my second major injury, the first one was in 2015 and took me six months. You need to get the rhythm, it takes time mentally even though you are fit.”

How has PV Sindhu's form been in 2023?

She has played only three tournaments, apart from the BAMTC, and has exited from the opening round in all three. In the season opener at the Malaysia Open, Sindhu, looking for a fresh start after a long injury-induced break, faced her primary rival Carolina Marin. The match lasted for an hour during which Marin defeated Sindhu in a three-game contest. Her match against Thailand's Supanida Katethong in the India Open was shorter as Singh was knocked out in 45 minutes in straight games. At the All England Open she fought for just 39 minutes before going down.

To her credit, Sindhu was integral to India's historic bronze medal win at the Badminton Asia Mixed Team Championships 2023. She showed glimpses of her touch with dominating wins en route to the semis, but was taken to three sets in both the quarters and the semi-finals, losing the latter.

2022 - A year to remember for PV Sindhu

Even as she struggles with form, Sindhu will have many fond memories to turn out. The most recent being the Commonwealth Games gold medal win, her maiden individual gold in the quadrennial event. Possibly her last high, before this new low.

On August 8, 2022, PV Sindhu clinched her first individual gold at the Commonwealth Games (CWG) 2022 in Birmingham. In the final, she defeated Canada’s Michelle Lee in a dominant fashion (21-15, 21-13). In the final, PV Sindhu was tougher in her moves while competing with Michelle Li at the National Exhibition Centre, in Birmingham. She was also seen wearing a bandage around her left ankle. PV Sindhu focused mainly on a combination of cross-court drop strokes and smashes. She built on those and went on to win the first game. 

The Canadian committed multiple unforced errors and was unable to force lengthier rallies. On the other hand, Sindhu remained focused and continued to make accurate returns. The match ended in 48 minutes with PV Sindhu completing her medal tally at the Birmingham 2022.

Sindhu had previously won a bronze in Glasgow in 2014 and a silver in Gold Coast in 2018. In the final of CWG 2018, she lost to compatriot Saina Nehwal and had to settle for silver. In 2014, she was defeated by Li, the same opponent who she played in the CWG 2022, in the semi-final to secure the bronze.

PV Sindhu's performances after the Commonwealth Games 2022

Let’s take a look at PV Sindhu’s performance since her gold medal win at the Commonwealth Games 2022

All England Open Championship 2023Round of 32Zhang Yiman (China)Lost17-21, 11-21
India Open 2023Round of 32Supanida Katethong (Thailand)Lost14-21, 20-22
Badminton Asia Mixed Team Championships 2023Round RobinKamila Smagulova (Kazakhstan)Won21-4, 21-12
Badminton Asia Mixed Team Championships 2023Round RobinWong Ling Ching (Malaysia)Won21-13, 21-17
Badminton Asia Mixed Team Championships 2023Quarter-finalSaloni Samirbhai Mehta (Hong Kong)Won16-21, 21-7, 21-9
Badminton Asia Mixed Team Championships 2023Semi-finalGao Fangjie (China)Lost9-21, 21-16, 18-21
Malaysia Open 2023Round of 32Carolina Marin (Spain)Lost12-21, 21-10, 15-21
BWF World Championships 2022Round of 32Han Yue (China)LostWalkover

What’s next for PV Sindhu?

Although PV Sindhu has been struggling at the moment, everyone knows her capabilities. Many even doubted her credentials before the start of the Tokyo Olympics 2020. However, she bounced back stronger than ever to win her second medal in the Summer Games. She also scripted history by becoming the first Indian woman athlete to clinch two medals at the grandest event.

In a much similar way, people are questioning her now after a few losses. But, PV Sindhu has proven herself as one of the best athletes in the nation. She will surely rise and shine again and shut the mouths of her critics in an even more commanding fashion.