The most anticipated match for the Indian fans this Olympic was well poised with the Spanish killer (Carolina Marin) as the hot favourite and India’s PV Sindhu riding high on back to back victories against players ranked above her. The match started with a toss which landed Sindhu serving to Marin into the stadium drift. The Final was the first for either side. Marin had lost out in group stages in previous Olympics but this time she beat her long-time rival, the Chinese giant Li.
Marin’s smile while letting the shuttle go past the side line defined her mindset and her confidence right at the beginning of the match. The much hyped side-drift worked against Sindhu drawing her to commit unforced errors. Sindhu was playing supposedly the best match of her life but her characteristic side line smashes were missing from most part of the match. Marin remained strong on the net tape and in no time the score read 12-9. Sindhu complained against camera flashes but neither did the flashes stop nor did Sindhu. Majority of the first game was dominated by unforced errors being committed from both sides and the score read evenly poised at 14-11. A powerful smash into Sindhu’s left side line followed by a loud scream showed the tempo being gained by the Spaniard. However Marin followed it with 2 unforced to bring the scores at 15-13.
Tape play brought a point to Marin again which she followed with a service fault. A winner by Sindhu thereafter brought the scores close to 16-15. The longest rally of 49 shots came to a sweet stop for the Indian who finally decided to let one go and it landed just off the back tape. A failed challenge by Sindhu and the scores were 18-16. Now Marin took her time to realise that Sindhu would not be such an easy buy. A powerful smash post a net tape play and Marin was just 2 points shy from winning the first game. A side long and cheeky net play by Sindhu coupled with a side long again. Sindhu equaled Marin.
The game point opportunity to Sindhu was drawn from 4 straight points as she is used to now. Sindhu thereafter pulled an impossible short court push by Marin into her back courts and Marin made an unsuccessful attempt to recover and thus Sindhu did it again by pulling from far behind 16-19 to win the first game of the Rio finals by 21-19.
Marin started the game strongly with smashes, reeling off 4 straight points. Sindhu called a well-judged long shot to end the spell but Marin just kept coming back. She soon raced away to a 5 point lead at 6-1. She made Sindhu run all around the court and within no time in the second game the scores read 11-2 when the compulsory break was taken. Usually a calm person but in the break, a very animated Gopichand guided Sindhu with some much needed advise. Gopichand has trained Sindhu from her childhood and seemed tensed to see her prodigy wile away. Whatever Gopichand came up with during the break bore fruit and Sindhu took 2 points but things seemed futile with the titanic lead Marin had gained. The Indian kept fighting while altering her strategy at the same time with high tosses to Marin’s backhand but the scoreline kept ticking the Spaniard’s way till 14-6. Sindhu kept earning points here and there but the patient play by Marin earned her a healthy lead with 16-8. The first smash down the side line by Sindhu late into the second game told that the fight in the Indian was still alive but she looked in despair with the ticking scoreline. The smile was back on the Spaniard’s face even after continuous side out smashes. Sindhu was dejected and had a conversation with the umpire however the angry looking Indian continued her fight but soon Marin had a 8 point lead for game point and closed the game at 21-12.
With one game apiece, both the players were equally tensed and nervous. Though, having just won the last game with an enormous margin, Marin had the psychological edge. Sindhu’s body language at the beginning of the third game showed the amount of effort she had to put in just to keep up. Down the line shots mixed with cross court smashes got Marin the early lead to 6-1. Soon the Spaniard gestured to her coach and indicated that she had started thinking followed by a flat push into the Indian’s back hand corner. The same gesture was repeated at 9-4 which indicated the Spaniard would be bringing the gold fight to the Indian’s back hand court at the back line. This overuse was soon sensed by Sindhu and she went over her usual streak of consecutive straight winners and reduced the Spaniard’s lead to 1 point at 9-8. This was followed by a long rally which was as good as it would get in the present women’s arena with both the players being pushed to alternate corners of the court. Sindhu won the rally and Marin requested a shuttle changed which was gently refused by the Indian. The last mandatory break saw the Spaniard at a single point lead. A shuttle change was again negated by the Indian however Marin soon extended her lead to 14-10 followed by a failed challenge at the side line. Mutual exchange of points, a failed challenge by the Indian and Marin led at 16-12.
Nerves were kicking in for the Spaniard and she hit two smashes away from the side lines. However the match was not over and both the players fought their hearts out in the final stages for each point. Marin held her nerves and extended the lead to 5 points with just 2 points shy of the elusive gold. Finally she converted the second match point to claim the gold.
Carolina Marin may have won the gold but PV Sindhu had become a part of something bigger. She became the first Indian woman in the history of the Olympic games to have won a silver medal.
India has won 2 medals so far, both won by women. This has silenced many critics and has triggered the right sentiments amongst Indians towards women participating in sports.