The 2017 World Championships final between PV Sindhu and Nozomi Okuhara was the longest ever women's singles final in the history of the tournament, with Okuhara eventually winning 22-20 in the deciding game. But it wasn't just the final result or the duration that made the match so memorable.
In a match that had more than its fair share of marathon rallies, including a 73-shot exchange that Sindhu won to take the second game, the two players' endless reserves of stamina and concentration stood out.
What made the match memorable was that the quality of play remained of a high standard throughout and there was no let up in intensity from either player. In fact, the third game lasted 48 minutes and was easily the longest game of the match.
"After your first hour, the fuel available to your body starts to run low, you start feeling sluggish and your mind doesn't work as well as before. The amount of attacking you do tends to go down," sports physio Nikhil Latey had told ESPN after the match.
"For today's players, lactic acid would have begun accumulating in their muscles within ten minutes of play. It causes soreness, which is the body's way of telling the athlete to slow down or risk damaging muscle fibres, but obviously the player won't stop. Because you aren't fast enough, you aren't at the right place at the right time to execute the attacking shots."
The match saw frequent shifts of momentum as the tenacious Okuhara fought back valiantly in each of the three games after Sindhu led by comfortable margins at the changeover on every occasion. With Sindhu almost a foot taller than her, the odds were stacked against Okuhara, but the Japanese's hung on thanks to a solid serve and some crafty net play which bailed her out of numerous tricky situations. Leading 19-17 in the final game, Sindhu was two points away from securing the title, but her lifts became erratic towards the end. Okuhara capitalised on it by playing her favoured inside-out smashes into the open spaces.
Sindhu won most of the long rallies in the match, but Okuhara had just a little bit more to come out in front eventually; Sindhu won 61 points, while Okuhara managed 63.
The sheer drama
Even as Sindhu and Okuhara slugged it out, there were plenty of moments where the two players were either bent over double or crumbling to the ground in disappointment. The sheer emotions and courage that the two players displayed while covering every inch of the court, getting into seemingly impossible positions to put the shuttle back into play, made this clash one to remember.
What they said
"When I saw the time, it was over an hour, and I thought 'oh my god, where is it going?' I was in a different world. I told myself to enjoy the moment. I saw she was tired too, so I believed I had the advantage."
"It was anybody's game. It's upsetting to lose, but you can't say anything at the end of such a match. It was never over from both sides. The third game went to 20-all. Every point was tough and we were both not letting go. Obviously anybody would aim for a gold because this is the final of the World Championships, but that last moment changed everything."