PV Sindhu’s coach Park Tae-sang believes it’s important that Sindhu wins the Yonex Sunrise India Open 2022, weakened field or not. The World Tour 500 event has gone from 23 international players in 2019 to fewer than 16 — the highest ranked of whom is World Number 12 Busanan Ongrambumphan.
“Since the 2019 World Championships, Sindhu hasn’t won a title. Even last year there were many tournaments where she reached the quarterfinal, semifinal or was runner up. There are not many high ranking players here but it doesn’t matter. I want her to win. I want her to participate in many tournaments and go there to win. Even winning the smallest tournament is important,” Park said in a Badminton Association of India (BAI) Twitter Spaces interaction on Tuesday.
“I have tried to tell Sindhu that it doesn’t matter which tournament she’s taking part in, but she needs to win so that she has the confidence to win. She needs to get that confidence back,” he said.
It’s not just a matter of getting in the right frame of mind mentally, either. Next year will be when the 2024 Olympic qualification cycle begins and coach Park is already looking to get Sindhu’s ranking as high as it can go.
There is another potential spanner in the works though. With the COVID-19 pandemic showing few signs of ending, he’s also planning ahead for what could be another stop-start year on the international badminton calendar. While the season is -on paper-packed with the Asian and Commonwealth Games alongside the World Tour, Park knows that Sindhu could be in for another season like 2021 where a bunch of tournaments were squeezed in in short period with a lopsided break in other months.
It might become crucial to have a buffer of ranking points, felt Park. Which is why he said Sindhu will take part in -and win –the Syed Modi Championships, a World Tour 300 tournament the Indian hasn’t taken part in since 2017.
Park said Sindhu was reluctant to take part in the tournament scheduled just a week after the New Delhi competition but he convinced her of its necessity. “I know this year we have the CWG and Asian Games. It’s very packed. But this year we don’t know the situation [due to COVID]. The Indian tournaments have become very important. If Sindhu gets the maximum points in these first two tournaments, she will have a very good chance to play in the World Tour finals in December. And whatever points she wins there will show in her rankings until late next year also. So this week and next week I hope she becomes champion,” he says.
A weary Sindhu will get about a month’s break though before the All England championships and it’s there that the field is expected to be one where the Indian will be seriously tested for the first time this season. No Indian has won the All England title since Pullela Gopichand in 2001 but coach Park believes Sindhu can go all the way this time. He knows that Sindhu struggles against deceptive players like Ratchanok Intanon and Tai Tzu Ying but he’s looking to correct those errors in the time that he has.
“With Sindhu her defence is weak compared to her attack. I’m not worried about her attack. If her defence is going well then the match goes well but when her defence is weak, she comes under a lot of pressure. At the World Championships against Tai, her offense was good with only one or two mistakes but Tai tricked her with the deception, fake movements and fake smashes,” said Park. “We are training a lot more on her defense now. If we have six days of training in a week, four or five days are for defense. She is getting better now. Mentally also she is getting stronger. I don’t doubt she gets the title in India and in the Syed Modi. Then after one month I hope we can have an Indian all England champion.”
Coach Park may have come specifically to work with Sindhu, but he also noted the gulf between her and the rest of the women’s contingent in India. “I train out of Hyderabad, so I can see players from there. This Indian generation of men’s singles players is very good. There are also a number of good men’s singles players coming up in the u16 and u19 age groups. But in women’s singles the number is very less. There’s no next Sindhu and Saina. That I didn’t find so far. There are some young players but maybe the next generation can be very good.”
Park had a theory on why this may be the case. “India has some good players. In the Hyderabad Ranking series I saw Malvika Bansod (who plays Saina Nehwal on Wednesday) who is a good left handed player. But in Korea where I come from, the junior and senior national team train together. In India they train separately. In my mind this is disappointing. In badminton good players training together gives good results. Here, you have many high ranked players in Hyderabad, others in Bangalore. I think the players train together on some days but if they train together regularly there will be a good result. I understand that there is a tradition and culture in India but this system should change,” he said.