One-up on Sindhu, Sayali up on confidence

Sayali Gokhale was preparing to serve against P V Sindhu, having clawed back a four-point deficit in the final of the 77th Senior National Badminton Championships. As she prepared to send the shuttle over the net, the power at the Sher-e-Kashmir Indoor Sports Complex in Srinagar conked off. In the absolute darkness that engulfed the court, Sayali says a thousand emotions crisscrossed her mind. Sindhu had only a month back got the better of Olympic singles champion Li Xuerui in the China Masters Super Series. The power break would have no doubt composed Sindhu, India's rising badminton star but it threatened to disrupt Gokhale's rhythm.

"I had done well to come back from 11-7 and was playing positive badminton. The power went off and I was scared I would lose the plot," says the Pune girl. The 2008 senior national champion says it was her coach for the tournament Tom Johm who helped her calm down. "We simulated different scenarios and planned the next point. Johm sir was instrumental in keeping me focussed when the power cut threatened to pull me down," she says.

15 minutes later, the power as well as Sayali came back on and the girl from Pashan seized the initiative and closed the decisive game 21-15. "It was an incredible feeling when Sindhu's smash hit the net to give me the title. I had worked extremely hard all through the year and the national title was a just reward for my efforts," she says.

Gokhale who trains at the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy in Bangalore says reaching the final was a big achievement. "The last couple of years haven't been great for me and when I reached the final, I told myself I belong here," says the shuttler. "I beat some good players along the way and in the final played against someone who had beaten the Olympic gold medallist. Beating Sindhu has done my confidence a world of good."

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