PV Sindhu added more spice to her rivalry with Nozomi Okuhara by beating the Japanese player in the final of the World Tour Finals in China to lift her first title of the year on Sunday. She also became the first Indian to win the year-end elite tournament.
Playing her third successive season-ending finale, Sindhu made a good, steady start in the opening game, taking a 5-1 lead and having a five-point advantage at the first break. She extended her lead to 14-6 before Okuhara reeled off four successive points to narrow the deficit. Okuhara seemed to control the proceedings next as she erased the deficit to claw back at 16-16.
But she smashed wide twice to hand Sindhu a 19-17 advantage. The Indian grabbed a three-game point advantage but Okuhara managed to save two before Sindhu sealed the opening game with a superb drop shot.
Sindhu started well in the second game too, going 5-2 ahead thanks to a couple of errors from Okuhara. The Japanese controlled the rallies from there and forced her way back to 7-7. Sindhu, however, managed to stay ahead and led 11-9 at the interval after Okuhara lost a video referral.
Okuhara tried to push the shuttle back of the court from the baseline and unleashed a body smash to make it 12-13. She kept snapping at her rival's heels and made it 16-17. But an error from her gave Sindhu an 18-16 lead.
Sindhu then ended a long rally with a winning smash to move to 19-16. A lucky net chord took the Indian one step away from the title. Sindhu had three match points and converted immediately to seal victory.
Earlier in the tournament, Sindhu had beaten 2013 world champion Ratchanok Intanon in the semi-finals and her nemesis world No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying in a group match.
Sindhu had fallen short at the final hurdle several times this year, losing to Beiwen Zhang, Saina Nehwal, Nozomi Okuhara and Carolina Marin in the India Open, Commonwealth Games, Thailand Open and World Championships respectively. Last year, she had lost an epic World Championships final to Okuhara.