On Sunday, PV Sindhu brought her 28-month wait for a BWF title to an end. The Syed Modi International, a Super 300 event without the big names, offered the setting for the goal attainment coach Park Tae-sang had set for the Indian. The two-time Olympic medalist overcame 20-year-old fellow Indian Malvika Bansod with little trouble, 21-13, 21-16, for her first Tour title since the World Championships in August, 2019.
For Bansod, world rank 84, it turned out to be a reality check, a harsh induction, if you will, into the rigors of cracking the next level. Sindhu sped to an 11-1 lead inside the first four minutes of play - demonstrating the gulf in levels between her and the next rung of young Indian players.
Bansod, who had defeated Saina Nehwal at the India Open last week, won her first off a delicately placed cross court drop. The young left-hander, who loves lengthening rallies and can bring out the soft drops, has a lot of work to do, particularly with bulking up on power. The Nagpur girl tried to work Sindhu around the court, completing a point with a push to the backcourt midway through the first game. The senior Indian was guilty of errors in a clump, giving the score-line a less lopsided look than the actual contest.
Left handers can trouble Sindhu - like Supanida Katethong did at the India Open and at quarterfinals this week too before the Indian had her revenge - but Bansod still has a mountain to climb when it comes to speed, strength and power. The youngster who got a call-up for the Uber Cup last year and went up against two top-10 players - Akane Yamaguchi and Pornpawee Chochuwong, constructed rallies against the senior Indian on Sunday only to throw away the point, on more than one occasion, in a limp finish into the net. At the other end, Sindhu's cross courts were ticking. Bansod did have her moments, like the clinical down the line smash for 17-11 in the second game. But they were too few and far between.
Sindhu had a rather untroubled run into the final. Her quarterfinal - a tense, three-game affair against Katethong -- the only test in otherwise smooth sailing week. Her semifinal turned out to be a 14-minute affair after Russia's Evgeniya Kosetskaya withdrew early during the match.
Coach Park has been pushing the Indian to chase down a title. Sindhu, wasn't particularly keen on pushing her body through another week's matches, Park had said earlier, after coming off a punishing couple of months last year. The India Open Super 500 was supposed to be the perfect opportunity for a title on a platter for Sindhu before Katethong rained on that parade in the semis. She had to wait another week, travel to one more city and play five more matches to finally climb the top of the podium.
A title at the start of the season, heading into a full roster of major events can only be a good thing. Beaming, with a medal around her neck after over a two year wait, Sindhu would know.