Deceived by Tai Tzu-ying: PV Sindhu settles for silver

After being outclassed in final, Sindhu plans to go back to drawing board to get even with World No 1

Published: 29th August 2018 07:34 AM  |   Last Updated: 29th August 2018 07:35 AM   |  A+A-

India’s PV Sindhu in action against Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu-ying during the women’s singles final in Jakarta on Tuesday. She became first Indian shuttler to win a silver at Asiad | PTI

Express News Service

JAKARTA: Magic. It presents itself in several ways. Deception is its best-known form. At a heaving GBK-Istora on Tuesday, the magician is taking the crowd through several acts of deception. One of the acts involves shuffling to the right before bringing down the racquet to divert the oncoming shuttlecock back the way it came from. With a difference. The bird has been dead-batted so it has just enough energy to sail over the net. It’s a crosscourt drop shot from deep and the crowd gasp. It’s five seconds into the women’s singles final and a pattern has been established.   

It’s 1-0 Tai Tzu-ying. 
Forty seconds later, the same move is enacted. PV Sindhu reads it this time but still cannot reach it. The crowd gasps again. They say never reveal your magic trick but Tzu-ying doesn’t conform to tradition. 3-0.  Watching the 24-year-old should come with its own ‘Please do not try this at home’ tagline because she is just too good. Two hours later, India’s national coach Pullela Gopichand makes a startling revelation. “She is the most deceptive women’s player I have ever seen.”

 Tzu-ying is not only blessed with deception but also marries it with pace, precision, power and reach. 
She takes the Indian through a 39-minute clinic of drops, smashes and lobs. She even throws in a couple of backhand no-look passing shot winners as a ‘thank you’ to the crowd for coming in numbers. It’s over before the Indian can even begin to come up with plan B. 21-13, 21-16. 

What a change two years makes. At the Olympics in Rio, Sindhu was the one dishing out chin music. She jump-smashed her way past the Chinese Taipei athlete 21-13, 21-15. On Tuesday, she is the one receiving the body blows. While Sindhu has become prone to the odd mistake, Tzu-ying has become a complete player. “She is playing longer without mistakes,” Gopichand says. “She always had the quality but she has added consistency to it.”

After the match, Sindhu makes a promise. “I will find a way to beat her.” The head-to-head makes for an ugly reading. 10-3. Tzu-ying is not all about drops and powerful smashes. She psyches the opponent and Sindhu inadvertently signs up for the experiment. The 23-year-old played a largely error-free first game. Just three to Tzu-ying’s six. There is a lesson there. Patience. Engage her in long rallies — Sindhu picked up a couple of points late in the second game through this method — and get her tired. 

Sindhu doesn’t do that. After playing an almost flawless opening stanza and still losing by lots, she decides to go for the paint on the tramlines on either side. Hollywood winners. However, most of them either go out of bounds or thud into the net. She later reflects on those misses. “When I decided to attack, it was going out of bounds. I think I gave her a couple of very easy points, I could have avoided my mistakes. I, maybe, should have played more patiently and kept the shuttle on the court. The result may have been different.” 

She has a point. Her error count in the second game is 13 (Tzu-ying had 8). That’s what the Kaohsiung-born athlete does. She makes opponents — even Olympic silver-medal winning ones — make rookie mistakes. After another finals loss, Sindhu’s tenth since the beginning of the Olympics, there will be a tendency to attribute even this defeat to pressure. It wasn’t. “There were a few rallies when Sindhu looked like she could be back but it was a bit too late in the match. The way Tai played, she didn’t give Sindhu much of an opening... I don’t think today was a psychological problem,” Gopichand says.

He says they will have to go back to the drawing board to try and find a yang to Tai Tzu’s Ying. “We will probably work on strokes and things like that which ensure that these problems are sorted out.” 
If they don’t, both Sindhu and Saina Nehwal have a real problem on their hands. Both of the conquered the Chinese but Tzu-ying has already proved to be an exceptional puzzle to solve. Sindhu’s last win against the World No 1 came at the Olympics (six matches since), while the 28-year-old’s last win came at the Swiss Open in 2013. The World No 3, though, remains adamant. “There is nothing to be worried about. There is no mental block against anybody. It’s not very tough to beat her and we will get it done soon.”


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