The Field Interview

Not revenge but beating Okuhara was important for Sindhu’s confidence, says Gopichand

Three weeks after the world championships final defeat, the Indian world No 4 beat the Japanese player in the final of the Korea Open.

In what was billed as a grudge match by many sections of the media, world No 4 PV Sindhu beat Nozomi Okuhara in the final of Korea Open Superseries on Sunday. The win came just three weeks after Sindhu suffered a three-game defeat to the Japanese in the final of the world championships in Glasgow last month.

Sindhu came out on top on Sunday after yet another epic three-game battle, by a scoreline of 22-20, 11-21, 21-18, to win her second Superseries title of the year and third of her career. The victory would have provided a boost to her confidence after she had lost the final of the world championships to the Japanese 19-21, 22-20, 20-22 in a marathon match that lasted 110 minutes.

How did Sindhu turn things around in three weeks? The Field spoke to Sindhu’s coach and mentor P Gopichand after Sunday’s final to try and find that out. Excerpts from the conversation:

What is your reaction after watching the final? How did you think Sindhu played today?

It’s a wonderful victory. I think both the players played well. It was almost a repeat of the final of the world championships – a long, hard-fought match. This time Sindhu just nudged Okuhara in the end but it was good to see her fight hard and take her chances.

What did you say to her after that world championships final loss?

I think there was very less to be said. It was a close match, what could you say – she fought hard. There were a few areas in her game that needed to be worked on. We worked on those in the last two weeks. We didn’t discuss about that match in particular because I thought she had every reason to be proud of herself [for that performance].

Did you speak to her before the Korea Open final? What did you tell her?

I spoke to her after the semi-final. Very basic stuff – what she did wrong, what she did right, what are the things in brief to do today [in the final].

Sindhu did well to snatch the first game from Okuhara after the Japanese had two game-point opportunities but then almost tanked the second game. Were you worried after Okuhara won the second game so easily?

The momentum looked more towards Okuhara’s side but knowing Sindhu and her ability to attack, all it needed was a [good] patch for her to get her confidence back. Once she had that initial lead in the third game, she fought back in the second half. She looked capable of closing the match, although Okuhara was coming closer in the end. Thankfully, Sindhu ensured that she stayed on top.

Considering the nature and result of their previous meeting, how much of a mental battle was this for Sindhu today?

Each of these matches are important and Okuhara is a great fighter and sportsperson. Sindhu, likewise, has been a great competitor as well. I think people termed it as a revenge match [before the final] but if you ask me it wasn’t. But it was important for Sindhu’s confidence to win after the kind of loss she had in the world championships final.

There was some criticism from certain sections of the media that after Rio and Glasgow, Sindhu is just not able to win finals. Do you think this title win puts an end to such criticism?

I think you’ll always find people who will criticise no matter what. I don’t think you should look at that criticism as a sportsperson. There are a lot of people who admire her and take her as an inspiration. The 1% or 0.5% of the population and the media who think that way, I think it’s best to let it go rather than think about it.

Going forward, what are the areas she still needs to work on?

Every area needs work. It was good to see her play a couple of new strokes – ones that we have practiced for years and are now starting to creep into her match play. Slowly, I think we will see more of that, is what I can say.

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