Dubbed "silver girl" for a string of near-misses on the international stage,
Pusarla Venkata Sindhu hopes to have finally shed that unwanted moniker after capturing her first world badminton championships title at the weekend.
Sindhu became India's first badminton world champion when she beat Japan's Nozomi Okuhara 21-7 21-7 in 36 minutes to win the women's singles in Basel on Sunday, a victory that also boosted the nation's hopes of an Olympic gold medal in Tokyo next year.
Sindhu has been knocking on the doors of a major title for quite some time but was falling short at the last hurdle. However, it all came together for the Hyderabad-based shuttler on Sunday as she decimated Okuhara to claim the coveted world title.
"I was expecting this for a long time. It's definitely a proud moment for me and for India. A lot of people have been waiting," the 24-year-old told reporters.
"This is my answer to the people who have asked me questions over and over. I just wanted to answer with my racket and with this win – that's all."
Third Straight Final
Sindhu was appearing in her third straight final but had to settle for a runner-up finish in her previous two outings. In the 2017 summit clash in Jakarta, she played a 110-minute epic against Okuhara before being outclassed 19-21, 22-20, 20-22 in a match regarded as one of the greatest of all time on a badminton court.
The following year, she lost in straight games — 21-19, 21-10 — to her long-term nemesis Carolina Marin.
Apart from her two silver medals and this year’s gold, Sindhu collected bronze at the 2013 and 2014 world championships after going out at the semi-final stage in two successive years. Her five medals is the joint highest in women's singles in the history of the world championships. She shares the distinction with Xhang Ning of China.
So Close, Yet So Far
Sindhu had a near miss at the 2016 Rio Olympics as well when she fell to the Spaniard 19-21, 21-12, 21-15 in a three-game epic to miss out on the gold. The 24-year-old's silver medal made her the first Indian woman to win a medal other than bronze at the Olympics.
Last year, too, there were twin near misses. She lost the Commonwealth Games singles final 18–21, 21–23 to her compatriot Saina Nehwal in April. Her misery was compounded three months later with another crushing defeat, this time in the Asian Games singles final. She lost 13–21, 16–21 to Taiwan’s Tai Tzu Ying.But there was no denying the Indian in her third attempt at a world championship final. Sindhu will now be eager to improve the colour of her Olympics medal in Tokyo next year.