PV Sindhu wins her first Commonwealth Games gold in women’s singles badminton

PV Sindhu won her first gold medal at the Commonwealth Games by defeating Michelle Li of Canada 21:15, 21:13 in the Badminton Women’s Singles Event Final. This is Sindhu’s fifth CWG medal, adding two in the mixed team events to her 2014 bronze and 2018 silver.

Michelle Li, who won gold at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, had beaten a 19-year-old Sindhu en route to her semi-final triumph. Sindhu had her revenge in the next edition, defeating Li in the semifinals before losing to Saina Nehwal in the finals at the 2018 Gold Coast Games.

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Li immediately pounced on the fact that Sindhu wasn’t at her best physically by the first point (her left ankle was strapped) and brought her around to take a 1-0 lead. However, Sindhu responded with some clever soft drops and a measured floater in backcourt to win the next three points.

Errors crept back into Sindhu’s game as Li fought back to 6-6, although the Indian star responded with a commanding smash over the line to take the lead. Sindhu’s movement improved as the game progressed, with a well-considered departure meaning she led 11-8 at the break in the first game.

The raucous Indian crowd in the arena perhaps had an effect as Li shot twice in a row before a Canadian cross-court shot went wide. A deftly sprung diagonal dropshot after a long rally proved that Sindhu’s class was still there, even if she wasn’t at her physical peak.

Li wasn’t just a spectator in this game, as a few dominant smashes cut her deficit to 14-17. A shot in Li’s body followed by Li hitting the net twice meant Sindhu won the first game 21-15. Sindhu’s roar returned, along with Coach Park Tae-sang’s yell of approval.

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Sindhu opted for shorter, more aggressive rallies in the second game and took riskier shots with an eye on her ankle. A well-judged exit in the backyard followed by two errors from Li meant Sindhu won six straight points to take a 9-3 lead.

Li showed her pedigree with a couple of drop shots, but a shot into the net as she stretched to return Sindhu’s diagonal drop meant the Indian led 11-6 at the break.

A stunning rally that saw both players move each other ended with a cross-court smack from Sindhu that even a diving Li couldn’t catch, drawing huge cheers from the crowd. With the score 13-9 in Sindhu’s favour, Li realized her best bet was long rallies – and what followed was the longest rallies of the game – 57 shots that showed the best of both players’ ability, even the impossible achieve what ended in an incredibly measured smash from Li, right on the line.

Despite her victors, Li’s mistakes continued to show, crossing with a floater and misjudging a drop shot at the net to go 13-20 behind as the Canadian looked increasingly desperate and resigned to her fate. A brief rally followed by a typical cross-court smash meant Sindhu finished the game and won her first Commonwealth gold. Palms over her eyes as Sindhu responded with relief, and a joyful hug with Coach Park on the sidelines – the monkey off her back at last, Sindhu’s emotions were plain to see.

Earlier, Sindhu opened their campaign with a comfortable 21-4 21-11 win over Maldives’ Fathimath Nabaaha Abdul Razzaq. Uganda’s Husina Kobugabe also put up little resistance in the next round, with the Indian Olympic medalist triumphing 21-10 21-9.

Goh Jin Wei of Malaysia was next in the quarterfinals after causing problems for Sindhu in the mixed team event. It was the same again as Wei won the first game 21-19 before Sindhu came back to win the final two sets 21-14 and 21-18. A visibly exhausted Sindhu won her semi-final against Singapore’s Yeo Jia Min in straight games, but the 21-19 and 21-17 result underscored just how hard-fought the match was.

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