India’s World No 3, Pusarla Venkata Sindhu, did not divert from the script one little bit. Her previous five encounters against Japanese World Champion Nozomi Okuhara had ended in alternate victories for the two shuttlers, with the Indian winning their most recent encounter at the All England championships, four months back.
Sindhu’s docile 50-minute 15-21, 18-21 submission handed Okuhara the title on Sunday at the Nimibutr Stadium in Bangkok. If this foregoing sounds somewhat cynical, let it be said that the women’s singles final went on entirely expected lines. The dice were really loaded in favor of the Japanese ace, even as Sindhu stoically labored along in the face of a number of odds stacked against her.
In the penultimate reckoning, Okuhara, now fully recovered from her recent injury problems, had easily accounted for American Zhang Beiwen, who had narrowly defeated the World No 2 and top seed, Akane Yamaguchi, in the quarter-finals. Sindhu, on the other hand, had fought over three games to subdue the effervescent Indonesian teenager, Gregoria Mariska Tunjung, in the semi-finals on 14 July 2018.
The Indian did not exactly toil against her initial three opponents in Bangkok — Linda Zetchiri of Bulgaria, Yip Pui Yin of Hong Kong and Sonia Cheah of Malaysia — but neither did she put in a commanding performance going into the semi-finals. Sindhu’s mentor, Pullela Gopichand, left her fortunes in Bangkok in the hands of junior coach Amrish Shinde, while Okuhara had the wily Korean former world and Olympic doubles champion, Park Joo Bong, available to her during the game and mid-game intervals to guide her on strategy.