'I wasn't lucky enough in Dubai' - Sindhu

AP Photo/Kamran Jebreili

"It's had its ups and downs. But overall it's been good."

PV Sindhu is remarkably modest in describing her year. It's either that or the 22-year-old is setting really high standards for herself. She entered 2017 with a an incredibly hard act to follow - her own. How would her season compare after all, to the year she had claimed an Olympic silver, the biggest prize ever won by an Indian badminton player? As the year ends, Sindhu can say she has more than just matched up.

Over the last 12 months, she has won two Superseries titles, reached the final of another two, clinched a silver medal at the World Championships and won another at the year-ending Dubai Superseries Finals. The 44 matches she has won on the international circuit this season is an Indian record.

Those lofty standards are partly to blame for the expectations her fans have of her. She was reminded of that not long after her loss in the final in Dubai. Battling an energy sapping cold, she fought but ultimately was chased down by the seemingly untiring Akane Yamaguchi.

"I did feel bad after the match when so many people came and asked me about the defeat. When you come to the final, you always want to win," she says.

There was a pattern many had probably felt. The loss to Yamaguchi must have reminded fans of the epic 1 hour 50 minute defeat against another Japanese, Nozomi Okuhara, at the World Championships. Some might even reach further to Sindhu's three-set loss to Carolina Marin in the final of the Rio Olympics.

To be fair, the numbers will back up Sindhu. Over the past year, she has a 9-6 record in matches that have gone to three sets. Yet, the two close losses have hurt.

"Immediately it is disappointing because I had come so close and it was just a matter of one or two points. I was this close to a gold medal and this was a tournament almost as big as the World Championships," she says.

There is maturity in how she shrugs off the defeat though.

"I have won a few games from being match point down (She won from three match points down against Sung Ji Hyun at the China Open last year) and I have lost despite coming close. I wasn't lucky enough in Dubai. I don't have any regrets. I wouldn't have done many things differently. You win some matches and you lose at times. It's part of life."

Far from being the crushing blow they might seem, Sindhu says the losses are an opportunity for her too. "But the fact that I am losing such close games made me feel that at least I have played well enough to make it this close. If I was losing matches in a one-sided game, it would be a problem."

One aspect of the game she feels will become crucial is her fitness. Sindhu was struggling with an illness in Dubai but this will not always be the case.

"I was exhausted after my match. But I knew that she (Yamaguchi) was very tired too. Additionally these are somethings that i will have to get used to. The Japanese are really good runners and I will have to play a lot more of these matches in the future," she says.

With a packed schedule for 2018, Sindhu takes pride in a less-talked about part of her game. "I've been able to do well because touch wood I have stayed injury free this year."

Indeed, while Carolina Marin and Nozomi Okuhara, her conquerors at the Olympics and World Championships, have been laid low to injuries, Sindhu has been able to put together an un-interrupted spell of competition.

"It was important to stay fit this year. I was injured before the Olympics and I knew how hard it was for me to return. I suffered a stress fracture and at one point I wasn't even sure whether I would compete in the Olympics. I had to play nearly 20 tournaments that year just to be able to qualify. Even now when you see other players coming back from injury, you know how hard it is to return. So my target for the next year will be the same. I need to work hard and ensure I stay injury free."