If the last three editions of the China Open are to be seen as a best of three between India and China, the score reads 2-1 in India's favour. 2014 saw Saina Nehwal emerging victorious in the Chinese den, beating China's Li Xuerui in the semi-final and Japan's Akane Yamaguchi in the final. The following year, Li Xuerui took revenge, defeating Saina in the final. Sunday's final saw a new Indian champion emerging with PV Sindhu putting it past China's Sun Yu in three games.
If an apple a day keeps the doctor away, a banana just before hitting the court for the final ten points in the third game, seems to have done the trick to keep Sun away from the title. Sindhu was in blistering form in the first game, before allowing Sun to come back strongly in the second. It was as if the Rio silver medallist had decided to be the hare in the hare vs tortoise race, taking a nap to let the tortoise to catch up. The decider third game saw Sindhu coming into her own.
This is Sindhu's first Superseries title, one that will fill a big gap in her cupboard of medals. The win will also improve her ranking significantly from the present world number 14. But far more importantly, it proved to the world that the endless felicitation ceremonies post-Rio have not taken her focus off the game.
That criticism would have come Sindhu's way had Fuzhou seen a performance akin to the one she dished out at the Denmark Open and French Open. At both events, she suffered second-round exits. But Sindhu has maintained that her training sessions with coach Pullela Gopichand were not being compromised to appear at events.
Gopichand is aware that post-Rio, Sindhu is under the radar of rival players and coaches. This also has meant a change in tactics and effort to ensure she remains injury-free. Gopi believes that at 21, Sindhu is far from being the perfect player with an all-round game. He believes there are several tactical areas that need to be worked on. The fact that there is so much scope for improvement, gives him hope. It is in that context that he sees the China Open win.
The world is also changing. After the Olympics, the baton in Chinese badminton has passed on to a new crop of champion players like Sun and HE Bingjiao, who Sindhu defeated in the quarters. The next couple of years are bound to see Sindhu locking horns more frequently against Olympic champion Carolina Marin and these two players.
Siyadath, who is one of the senior coaches at the Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy in Hyderabad, was sitting on Sindhu's match, constantly egging her on. With him was Madhumita Bisht, eight-time National singles champion, nine-time doubles winner and 12-time mixed doubles title holder. The idea was to ensure that even in Gopi's absence at Fuzhou, Sindhu was fed with the right kind of inputs from the side of the court and motivation.
The coaching strategy that Gopi and his team of coaches employ is that players at the level of a Sindhu or a Kidambi Srikanth do not need to be coached on technique or what to do in terms of the game. It is more to do with man management, to help them spot an opponent's trick which they may miss out in the heat of the moment.
There is no `one shirt fits all' formula. ``Understanding every single player's mind is critical,'' Siyadath had told me.
Which is why Siyadath and Madhumita looked at with great concern Sindhu fritter away the early advantage in the second game. The instructions given during the break by Siyadath in Telugu and Madhumita in Hindi was to not let Sun dictate terms on court and keep the surprise element alive.
China would be disappointed to see Sun set on home soil. Particularly since the defeat came on the back of the Korean women's doubles pair vanquishing the Chinese duo in the finals.
It was also poetic justice in the geopolitical rivalry between India and China. The Chinese embassy denied a visa to Bamang Tago, manager of the Indian badminton team because he hails from Arunachal Pradesh, a state China claims is part of its territory. Sindhu's surgical strike deep inside China, has to an extent, de-Yuan-etised the currency of Chinese domination in the badminton world.