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02 Mar, 2021
Sometime in the afternoon today, PV Sindhu will open her Swiss Open 2021 campaign against Neslihan Yigit of Turkey at the St Jakobshalle Arena in Basel. And as she does so, she isn’t just going to be facing the opponent on the other side of the net but there will be plenty else for the Indian superstar to prove.
But at least, she will have some sweet memories to reflect upon as this was the same arena where Sindhu won her maiden World Championships Title back in 2019. And while, the world may be an entirely different place to what it was in the Autumn of 2019 – the challenges Sindhu is facing remain rather similar.
Back in 2019, Sindhu had been coming off a rather indifferent season by her lofty standards. A few semi-final appearances, a lost final in Indonesia – had raised the same heckles of her being a silver queen, and not quite able to win the gold at the big events. This despite the fact that Sindhu has consistently performed well in the big events all through her career.
Questions of form, mental fortitude, were aplenty. And Sindhu was under immense pressure to prove her detractors wrong. And she did that emphatically, winning the World Championships in the most emphatic manner. She had brushed aside Japanese opponent Nozomi Okuhara 21-7 21-7 in one of the most lopsided finals at the World Championships.
As she stood atop the podium and allowed herself to immerse in the atmosphere of St Jakobshalle, she had accomplished to win the title, silence her detractors and put herself into a higher orbit of Indian superstars.
Now as the Olympic Silver Medalist returns to the very arena, about 18 months since that magical night, curiously she faces questions over form, fortitude, and several off-court distractions. Over the last six months, several headlines concerning Sindhu have been more off-the-court than on it. With the Olympics in less than six months now, Sindhu has unwittingly found herself in one controversy, after another. And yet, just as she has done all through her career – she’d be very keen to put all of that to rest on the court in St Jakobshalle, Basel.
And while the Swiss Open might just be a Super 300 event – hardly a match in stature to the World Championships, a win or at least a noteworthy performance here in Basel might go a long way in keeping her detractors at bay for some time. The last thing she needs at this crucial juncture is needless controversies taking over her mind space when all that she needs to be thinking about are the Olympics in Tokyo less than six months away.