On Tuesday, fans witnessed India’s best PV Sindhu, the World No.2, face a player who is brimming with potential. The last occasion the two met, in the final of the South Asian Games, it was Ruthvika who stunned Sindhu in two games. But over the past year Sindhu, with silver medals at the Rio Olympics and the World Championships, has taken her game to the next level.
Ruthvika, ranked 83 in the world, and still feeling the after-effects of a knee injury which kept her out of the game for nearly six months, was facing an uphill task. Ruthvika would not only have to hold her nerve against Sindhu but also hope that her knee didn’t let her down. Those who expected a one-sided match were pleasantly surprised. Ruthvika rushed to a 19-13 lead in the first game.
Ruthvika had wrapped up the game in 14 minutes. At the Divisional Sports Complex in Nagpur, an upset seemed on the cards and the spectators were rooting for the underdog who had held her own against one of the best in the world. Sindhu forced Ruthvika to move around court before setting up a finishing shot in the second game. The ace shuttler invited her opponent to the net, dribbling a few net shots before looping over.
Eventually, Ruthvika would lose 17-21, 21-15, 21-11. “It gave me a lot of confidence to come up with a performance like this, especially after all the injuries I’ve had in the last year,” Ruthvika said after the match. After the Guwahati event she is recurring with the knee problems kept her away from the sport for over six months.
“I still have to work on my fitness and endurance if I have to challenge the big players,” she added. From the second game on, she started to tire. The chair umpire twice called for a ‘let’ when Sindhu served but Ruthvika appealed. Sensing that her opponent was exhausted, Sindhu mixed up the rallies — indulging in net play and forcing Ruthvika to lunge before playing the shuttle deep and killing the point with a smash.
The 2014 national champion said that At that point I fell mentally down. Still, there were moments when Ruthwika conjured deceiving drop smashes, followed by the full-blooded overhead version. And Sindhu struggled to return them. But Ruthwika soon ran out of steam. By the end of the match, Ruthwika was a shadow of herself but the 20-year-old gave glimpses of her potential when she gave Sindhu a fight in the first game. If this semifinal was a match-up between the establish star and a rising one, the final of the women’s singles is a classic — the trailblazer Saina Nehwal versus Sindhu. Nehwal beat Anura Prabhudesai 21-11 21-10.