July 25, 2021
By Richa Naidu
TOKYO (Reuters) – With decisive smashes, cutting backhands and a confident gait, Rio 2016 silver medallist India’s PV Sindhu on Sunday made quick work of Israel’s Ksenia Polikarpova, beating her 21-7, 21-10.
Both matches totalled just 29 minutes, with Polikarpova visibly frustrated and hanging her head with each lost point.
“It was quite an easy match,” Sindu said at Musashino Forest Sport Plaza, adding that she knows she has the hopes of a billion people behind her.
Though Sindhu, who was beaten to the gold at the 2016 Rio Olympics by Spain’s Carolina Marin, is No. 7 in world rankings, she is considered a serious threat to table toppers Taiwan’s Tai Tzu-Ying and Chen Yu Fei of China.
“Tokyo is a fresh start,” Sindu said. “You can’t expect to be Superman, to think that you will again be a medallist. It’s not like that because everybody is going to be at their top form.”
Later on Sunday, Japan’s Kento Momota will make his long overdue Olympic debut, his highly anticipated match against the United States’ Timothy Lam coming after personal and professional setbacks, including contracting COVID-19.
Momota was embroiled in an illegal gambling scandal months before the Rio Games in 2016, and banned by the Nippon Badminton Association. Then world No. 2, Momota was stripped from the league tables and by the time he got back on the court in 2017, he was ranked 282nd. With a 39-match unbeaten streak, he clawed his way back to the top.
But Momota’s Olympic dreams seemed crushed again in early 2020 when he was in a car accident that left the driver dead and damaged his sight among other injuries. He had time to recover during the pandemic, and made a comeback at the All-England Open in March, raising Japanese hopes he can challenge for Olympic gold.
“You never know what’s going to happen. Kento has had, obviously, some tough experiences,” said Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen, men’s world No. 2 and Momota’s biggest competition at the Games. “It’s good to see him back and healthy, most importantly of all. We’ll see who can do well here.”
(Reporting by Richa Naidu; Editing by Karishma Singh)