Sindhu goes down in final of Spain Masters

By, New Delhi
Apr 02, 2023 09:01 PM IST

The second-seeded Indian suffers her first loss in eight meetings against Indonesia's Gregoria Mariska Tunjung.

It’s not often that PV Sindhu is dominated on court. Especially not by a player who has never entered the top 10 in world rankings or never won a title on the BWF World Tour.

Sindhu kept trying but Gregoria had answers for every point the Indian was trying to win(PTI)
Sindhu kept trying but Gregoria had answers for every point the Indian was trying to win(PTI)

But Sunday was one of those days when Indonesia’s Gregoria Mariska Tunjung completely outplayed and outfoxed the second-seeded Indian to win the $210,000 Spain Masters in Madrid — her first title on the BWF World Tour.

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The scoreline — 21-8, 21-8 in Gregoria’s favour — shows the apt picture of the women’s singles final of the Super 300 tournament that didn’t even last half-an-hour as Sindhu, a former world champion, suffered her first loss to the fifth-seeded Indonesian in eight meetings.

The two players are in very different stages of their careers. Sindhu, a double Olympic medallist, was in prime form last year, winning four tournaments — Syed Modi India International, Swiss Open, Singapore Open and Commonwealth Games — following which she suffered a stress fracture on her left foot that put her out of action for five months.

Her return to the circuit has been far from ideal, losing her first three tournaments of the season — Malaysia Open, India Open and All England Open — in the first round and exiting Swiss Open last week, where she was the defending champion, in the second. On top of that, she split with her long-time coach Park Tae-sang in January and also dropped out of the world’s top 10 for the first time since November 2016.

While Sindhu is struggling to find her form, Gregoria is playing at her prime. A rising shuttler from Indonesia, she is ranked No 12 in the world — a spot below Sindhu. It is her best ever ranking. The 23-year-old is in superb form, manifested by reaching the quarter-finals of Indonesia Open and All England Open before making the semis of Swiss Open.

In Madrid, she reached her second final on the BWF World Tour after the 2022 Australian Open, defeating top seed and three-time world champion Carolina Marin on the way against expectations of the vociferous crowd supporting the local favourite in the semi-final on Saturday.

Gregoria carried the momentum into the final day of the tournament by rattling Sindhu’s game right from the start. Despite her right thigh being strapped, the Indonesian kept lunging at the net and made good use of her feet to cover the court with ease, finding angles and down-the-line smashes to easily lead 11-6 at the mid-game interval in the first game.

Despite a lot of support from the Indian diaspora in the stands of the Centro Deportivo Municipal Gallur, Sindhu had no answers to the smashes of Gregoria, whose confidence and shot-making ability kept improving as the 29-minute match progressed. Gregoria kept returning whatever Sindhu was throwing at her, creating some incredible angles that caught Sindhu off guard. The Indonesian ran away with the game, taking the lead in only 11 minutes.

The fifth seed continued her smart and calculated game, doing exactly what was necessary to win points comfortably and quickly in addition to some fantastic winners. Gregoria regularly took the initiative, attacked more often and didn’t allow Sindhu to rally.

Sindhu kept trying but Gregoria had answers for every point the Indian was trying to win. In no time, Gregoria took an incredible eight-point lead (11-3) at the mid-game interval of the second game. Sindhu's interim coach, Vidhi Chaudhary, was trying to motivate her in between points and during the breaks but nothing worked for the second seed. By the end, Sindhu had almost given up as Gregoria won the second game in 18 minutes for an emphatic victory.

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    From badminton to cricket, Sandip Sikdar writes on many sporting disciplines. He has the experience of working in digital, news agency as well as print organisations. Motorsport remains his first love.

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