PV Sindhu won the first Super 500 title of her career when she defeated reigning Asian champion Wang Zhi Yi of China 21-9, 11-21, 21-15 in the final of the Singapore Open on Sunday. The first two games were lop-sided given the drift and the third was a battle of grit which she won on her endurance.
A first Super 500 title can feel odd for a player who is a former world champion, has two Olympic medals, has won the BWF World Tour finals and has multiple medals across world and Asian championships, Commonwealth and Asian Games.
The title also came in a weakened field, with Tai Tzu Ying and Ratchanok Intanon pulling out, which means she didn't face a single seeded player.
But none of this can take away from the fact that this is a significant title for Sindhu. Not because of its ranking points, but because of its timing. It comes after a rough stretch on the Asian leg with back-to-back losses to her nemesis Tai Tzu. This is her first 500 or better since the world championship win in 2019. This is her first 500 or better final in 2022. This is an important marker for the world No 7 while the rankings are still frozen.
- BWF (@bwfmedia) July 17, 2022
In 2022 so far, Sindhu has been aiming at more matches and titles on the BWF Tour, something her coach, Park Tae Sang, had said at the start of the season. But it hasn't been a smooth-sailing mission. She has been consistently making deep runs on the BWF Tour but didn't have much to show for it.
Consider this: Sindhu has won just two titles this year before this - both Super 300s. But she has reached the semifinals seven times and quarters 10 times across 13 tournaments (excluding Uber Cup), with an Asian Championship bronze in the mix. Now, the record stands at three finals played, three finals won. Momentum gained.
And this comes right before the money stretch of 2022 - the Commonwealth Games (from an Indian perspective) and the World Championships. To reiterate, it's all about the timing.
Sindhu herself said she was relieved, if the celebration after the match point didn't make that clear enough. "I am relieved and very happy. After winning the first game, I gave her continuous points in the second and it was hard for me to catch up. In the third game, each point was important. After 11 (mid-game interval), she was coming closer; it was 9-11 at some point even though I was leading 11-6. It was very crucial I maintained the lead," she said after the trophy presentation.
Sindhu is no stranger to three-game tussles lately and indeed she needed a decider in the second and third matches against lower ranked opponents. But Sindhu is nothing if not perseverant.
She has stuck with her processes despite week-in and week-out of tough losses over the last few months, with the first-round and second-round exits at the two Super 1000s this year being the harshest. She has stuck to her game and forced deciders despite falling short against top-10 players in the business end. Now, with the luck of the draw, the virtue of persistence has been rewarded.
"In couple of tournaments there were hard-fought matches, losing the quarters and semis. It was upsetting of course, but it was very important that finally I could get this. I have crossed that level now where I have got the win so I hope the same tempo continues," Sindhu said on her overturning run of losses.
Up next, is another gruelling portion of the season but not before the 27-year-old takes some time (Read: a day) off to recharge. "I just have a week and then we leave for the Commonwealth Games but I think I can take a day off. It's been a long tour for me from Indonesia, Malaysia and now Singapore. Time to relax for a bit and get back to training. I have to focus on CWG, World Championships and Japan Open and need to stay physically and mentally fit," she said, thanking her travelling team - coach, trainer and physio - for keeping her injury free.
If she can carry on this winning momentum and mindset to Birmingham, a Commonwealth Games gold - another first - is well within reach in a much easier field.