Spain Masters: PV Sindhu has a good chance to end her two-year title wait as she starts off on a winning note in Madrid | Badminton News

Sindhu

Before their Swiss Open campaigns began last week, PV Sindhu and Carolina Marin each shared the same photo of catching up at St Jakobshalle in Basel. “We wage war every time we play, but off the court, the smiles and friendships persist, as they always should,” Sindhu’s caption read. “Always wonderful to cross paths with you, dear friend!”

“Friendship never ends, hope to see you on court this week,” Marin’s post said.

Indeed a semifinal meeting between the two old-time frenemies appeared on the cards but Sindhu’s week was ended early by Japanese teenage sensation Tomoka Miyazaki. Marin, on the other hand, went on to make it two titles in as many weeks, to follow up her superb run at the All England.

A potential reunion in front of her fans against Sindhu in the final was a possibility, but as a result of two taxing weeks, top seed Marin decided to pull out of her home event in Madrid. That leaves Sindhu as the effective top seed at the Spain Masters Super 300. The Indian started off with a comfortable 21-16 21-12 win on Wednesday against Wen Yu Zhang of Canada, which took only 30 minutes.

Sindhu began slowly in a match that wasn’t of the highest quality. Both players were making errors and clean winners were few and far between. But post the mid-game interval, Sindhu started to find a better tempo, and somewhat cleaned up her game. When she starts hitting crosscourt whipped smashes from the forehand corner, it is usually a sign she is feeling good on court. That started happening a bit more often towards the back end of the opener as she pushed on the pedal from 14-14.

Festive offer

The Canadian youngster, ranked 49 in the world, struggled with her lengths throughout the match, and once Sindhu started pulling ahead in the second game, her challenge fizzled out.

It marked a solid enough beginning for Sindhu in a week where she stands a real chance of going the distance. Not including the gold she won at the Asia Team Championships earlier this year in Malaysia, Sindhu hasn’t reached a final since doing so at this very tournament last year. As was the case in 2023, Madrid once again offers Sindhu the best opportunity to end a mini-title drought that stretches back to the Birmingham Commonwealth Games in 2022, where she suffered the first of her two recent significant injuries. On the World Tour, the last title she won was just before the CWG, at the 2022 Singapore Open.

Favourite for the title

Apart from Marin, the Fab Four – An Se Young, Chen Yufei, Tai Tzu-Ying and Akane Yamaguchi – have all skipped Madrid. Beating the best in the game is going to be Sindhu’s biggest challenge as she builds up to Paris, but there is also the need to improve her ranking and try to push into the top 8 in the world. Sindhu, currently placed 11th, could use a shot in the arm in that regard.

Sindhu still has challengers in the draw, as Ashmit Chaliha found out when she was dismantled by Ratchanok Intanon. The former world champion and a good friend of Sindhu on tour overcame a sluggish start herself, to breeze past the Indian left-hander with her elegant shotmaking proving too hot to handle.

Ratchanok, the fourth seed, is in the top half of a Thailand-heavy draw. In her half, Sindhu’s biggest challenge is likely to come in the quarterfinals against another Thai, the leftie Supanida Katethong. But Sindhu has had better luck in recent times against the shuttler coached by the Indian’s former mentor Kim Ji Hyun. In the semifinal, third seed Kim Ga Eun could be waiting, but that is once again a winnable match for the Indian going by the contrast in playing styles.

Of course, a lot of it will depend on Sindhu’s own physical levels after her fourth week in action on the trot in Europe. Building up to peak fitness, and mental space, for Paris is high on her team’s checklist, but the motivation of winning a title and putting that wait behind her back wouldn’t hurt. She fell short at the final hurdle in Madrid last year when Gregoria Mariska Tunjung outplayed her in the title clash, but another chance beckons in the Spanish capital.

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