Sindhu can take heart from the fact that she has beaten her opponent more than once in previous meetings.

PV Sindhus gold quest What to expect when World No 1 Carolina Marin stands in the way
news Rio Olympics Friday, August 19, 2016 - 15:59

Pusarla Venkata Sindhu has already made it into the history books by entering the finals of the Olympic badminton competition and is assured of at least a silver medal. On Friday, she will be hoping to go one step further when she squares off against Carolina Marin of Spain.

If Sindhu wins, she will also emulate Abhinav Bindra’s feat and become only the second Indian to win an individual Olympic gold.

Sindhu’s giant-killing run in the tournament has already accounted for three players seeded higher than her. Among her conquests, the current World No 10 has defeated World No 6 Nozomi Okuhara in the semi-finals and World No 2 Wang Yihan in the quarters. 

The woman she is taking on is Carolina Marin, who is the current World no. 1. And, the southpaw Marin has been in red-hot form in the tournament so far, having not lost a game in reaching the finals. So, the enormity of the task at hand for Sindhu is only too evident. But, Sindhu can take heart from the fact that she has beaten her opponent more than once in previous meetings.

Marin though is the favourite for the gold. The ace shuttler defeated Finnish Nanna Vainio and Dane Line Kjærsfeldt in the group stages to finish top of her group before doing away with the challenge of Sung Ji-Hyun (World No. 7) in the quarterfinals. Then she dashed the hopes of defending champion Li Xuerui of China (World No. 3) by beating her in straight games 21-14, 21-16 in clinical fashion.

At 23, Marin already owns an impressive trophy cabinet, including gold medals in the 2014 and 2015 World Championships, the 2014 and 2016 European Championships and the 2015 All England Championships.

A feisty character on court, Marin fell in love with the game rather fortuitously. She got initiated into the sport in 2001, at the age of 8 when her best friend asked her to go come along to learn about a new game, and from then, the rest as they say is history.

However, the road to success wasn’t easy, especially in the early years as she struggled to have enough good competition in her country, owing to the overwhelming popularity of football.

"It's difficult because I don't have many practice partners. It is not like China, India or Indonesia where there are more training facilities. When I practice, it is usually with the male players," Marin said in December, 2015 playing at the BWF finals in Dubai.

Expected to be an even contest, Sindhu will have to remain consistent in her strokeplay and stay true to her resilient character to counter the Spaniard’s sturdy defence.

However, the 21-year-old Hyderabadi will have the height advantage against Marin and she will have to put it to good use during the match as she did it against Okuhara on Thursday. It will be important for her to seize control early in the match as she did in the semi-final and put Marin on the back-foot.

Sindhu will not be short of motivation though and will have the support of hundreds of Indians cheering for her at the Riocentro, when the match starts later on Friday evening. Back home, her ardent fans will be glued to their TV sets in eager anticipation.

Moreover, as was the case on Thursday, she will have the backing of the home crowd by virtue of being the clear underdog.

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