Sindhu, first Indian to win World Tour Finals, gets BAI cash reward

Guangzhou: Chief national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand has set his eyes on ending the 18-year-old wait for an Indian to become an All England champion next year after P V Sindhu clinched the season-ending World Tour Finals title here yesterday.

P V Sindhu hoped no one will ever question her ability to win big titles, relieved at breaking the finals jinx with a historic triumph at the World Tour Finals here.

After losing seven successive summit clashes, Olympic silver medallist Sindhu finally settled her finals blues with a 21-19 21-17 win over Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara to lift the prestigious season-ending trophy.

Gopichand was the last Indian to win the All England Championship in 2001, achieving the coveted feat after 21 years of Prakash Padukone’s 1980 title. Asked about the targets, Gopichand said: “For us, 2020 would be a big one, and then 2022, so basically the Commonwealth, Asian Games and Olympics are the big events but having said that the All England will be the target next year. It has been quite a while since we have won the All England Championship. It will be almost 20 years since Prakash sir won and then I won the championship so I hope this time it doesn’t take so long.”

Sindhu on Sunday became the first Indian to clinch the World Tour Finals, capping a successful season where she won silver medals at the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, World Championship and finished runners-up at India Open and Thailand Open.

“I feel really happy. I have no words because it is my first win this year after coming and losing in the finals, so it was memorable. The year has ended on a beautiful note,” said Sindhu.

“The last to last year I lost in semifinal and last year I finished runner-up. This time, I am the winner, so it is a beautiful tournament for me as I won all matches in the league stages and also the semifinals and finals. I would definitely enjoy the moment as I am here. Next we have the Indian league (Premier Badminton League), so I will go directly for that and I hope to do well there so that would be all for the year.”

Gopichand also said the win was special. “The way she has played, she has beaten players of quality. To beat (Akane) Yamaguchi, (Nozomi) Okuhara, Ratchanok (Inthanon) in the same tournament is special. She finishes the year on a high. She has won medals in the major events and that was the target this year,” he said. “It is great to end the year like this but more important is to start the next year with a similar win.”

Gopichand was also impressed with the performance of Sameer Verma, who not only qualified for the season-ending tournament after defending his title at Syed Modi but also came within touching distance of making it to the summit clash.

“I am also impressed with how Sameer played the entire tournament. To do well to qualify and getting into the semifinals, both are phenomenal and he was so close to get to the finals,” he said of Sameer, who had squandered a match point to go down fighting against Shi Yuqi of China in the semifinals.

“We all deserve some rest. We also have the year-ending league, which is a shorter format but it going to be intense and fun,” he added.

BAI ANNOUNCES CASH REWARD

Badminton Association of India (BAI) announced a cash reward of Rs 10 lakh for P V Sindhu and Rs 3 lakh for Sameer Verma who reached the semifinal in his maiden appearance at the World Tour Finals.

“It’s a great year-ending for Indian badminton. Sindhu winning the Tours Final and defeating the best players to achieve the historic feat indicates the leap Indian badminton has taken. I congratulate both Sindhu and Sameer on behalf of entire Badminton Association of India,” BAI president, Himanta Biswa Sarma, said.

This was Sindhu’s first title win in last eight final appearances since winning her last crown at the Korea Open in 2017.

Ajay K Singhania, general secretary, congratulated both the shuttler’s efforts. “Sindhu beating World No 1 Tai Tzu Ying, Akane Yamaguchi, Ratchanok Inthanon and Nozomi Okuhara is, indeed, commendable and Sameer reaching the semi-final and losing closely to the World No 2 Shi Yuqi on his debut says a lot about our shuttlers’ abilities. It is a great occasion for all of us to celebrate,” he said.