'No more silver in headlines; this time it's gold' - PV Sindhu

PV Sindhu poses with the gold medal after beating Nozomi Okuhara to win the World Tour Finals. STR/AFP/Getty Images

PV Sindhu has tasted gold.

It must feel nothing like having to explain the gratifying feeling of making a final or waking up to Monday morning headline commiserations.

"Oh, this is the best feeling," Sindhu tells ESPN from Guangzhou. "It's a really big win for me. The good part is I won't have to read 'silver again for Sindhu', 'silver again for Sindhu' headlines everywhere. Tomorrow it'll say 'this time it's gold'."

Sindhu had set out turning mental blocks into building blocks quite early in the week. Her first win in seven meetings and two years against world No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying was a sure sign.

On Sunday, she flipped precedent and unflattering stats - seven consecutive final defeats - on their head to become the first Indian player to win the year-end World Tour Finals, following a 21-19, 21-17 victory against Nozomi Okuhara. She sunk to her knees by the umpire's chair before gathering herself to hold up a gleaming trophy with glassy eyes.

"Everywhere I went people kept asking me the same question of why I'm always losing in finals. Hopefully, I've answered it well with this gold and that question won't follow me anymore."

Okuhara, whom Sindhu last beat at the World Championships in August this year, rarely pulled out her signature deceptive drops through the match. This, as Sindhu paced the game well, measuring her aggression and not going for all the smashes she could.

Nothing fazed Sindhu on Sunday. Not Okuhara's body smashes, not the attacks on her backhand; not even when she nearly let an eight-point lead slip in the first game.

"I came to the match knowing it could be a long one [much like the 2017 World Championship final]. I knew she'd draw me into long rallies. I was careful not to get carried away with the scores when I was leading. I honestly didn't think I'd win. I knew she could come back, which she did in the first game. Then my next job was to tell myself to not lose my nerve."

Much of Sindhu's zen-like approach in this tournament has been borrowed from her renewed self-talk during or after a point.

"So when my opponent plays a nice shot or a really outrageous one that I can't pick, I have now learnt to appreciate it. Earlier what would happen is that when I'd be trailing I'd begin to get nervous. I've learnt this bit from experience.

"When someone plays a great shot and you go 'gosh why is this happening to me?', you end up losing the next three points as well. It happened to me a lot. My mind tended to be stuck in the points I'd missed so I would find it difficult to invest in the moment. Now, when my opponent plays a shot I can't match I just tell myself, 'well, that was good' and move on."

It helped that a massive shot of confidence arrived right in the second day of the tournament.

"I think that win over Tai Tzu, beyond what it's worth as a league game or a World Tour finals match, did a lot to me at a very personal, individual space. You know, I kept asking myself, 'what's going on here'? Even in the match that day, I was trailing by a game but managed to catch up. When you play someone whom you've been losing to for as many matches as you can remember and you suddenly manage to turn that around, it takes your belief to a whole new level."

In this tournament, Sindhu dropped just one game, against Tai Tzu, in five matches. Much of it, she owes to her willingness to see off crunch situations with a clear head and a calm heart.

"Patience on court has helped me a lot. Learning to wait and not rushing to finish points I would say has been crucial. I've also been working really hard on my body and I think that shows in my game. There's just so much to take forward in the year ahead. And now, I have a gold too."