PV Sindhu conquers Siri Fort
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It was hard to believe that just a year separated PV Sindhu and Rituparna Das, the women's singles finalists at the 78th Senior Badminton Nationals. The former strode on to the Siri Fort Stadium with the confidence of someone who at 18, had won a World Championship bronze, a GP gold and an Arjuna Award — all in the same year. Trailing a bit behind and standing nearly half a foot shorter was Das, playing her first national final.
Das's bob-cut made her look even younger than her 17 years — she almost seemed burdened by her kit bag.
Das, the current junior national champion, conceded the first point courtesy a poor error. The next point though had everyone taking notice. Sindhu's powerful drive was countered with a high toss and the return was pushed softly into a corner. When the hard return followed, Das was already waiting at the net to finish the point with a deceptive half-smash.
Such moments of brilliance were rare and the rest of the game proceeded according to script. Das enjoyed a 11-7 lead at one stage in the second game, but Sindhu eventually won her second national championship in straight games — c But in the half hour that the match lasted, there were enough pointers to give a clear indication that Das is a name to keep an eye on for the future.
Both Sindhu and Das train at the Gopichand Academy in Hyderabad. Perhaps, Gopichand likes the fact that Das is a throwback to the old days, for the chief coach often grinned when talking about about her. "Rituparna has a very fluent and elegant game. Things seem to come easily to her," he said.
With both players emerging from the same stable, no coach from the academy sat alongside the courts to offer advice. Previously in the tournament though, Mohammad Siyadattullah, assistant coach at the Gopichand Academy, had been in Das' corner, much as he had been for Sindhu over the years — starting from the time she was simply a junior with promise.