PV Sindhu got a few gifts but was also guilty of missing her own chances - failing to convert two match points -- as she returned from a 10-month break from international badminton, with a 21-16 24-26 13-21 loss to Mia Blichfeldt of Denmark in the first round of the Thailand Open on Tuesday.
The bruising hour and fourteen minute long encounter was Sindhu's first match since the quarterfinal of the All England Open in March last year. That tournament would also be the last for several months as the international calendar ground to a halt owing to the coronavirus pandemic. While the season resumed with the Denmark Open in November last year, Sindhu opted out of the tournament. She would also drop out of the national training camp in Hyderabad, deciding instead to train with members of the England squad in London over the end of the year.
The wisdom of those choices would invariably be the subject of discussion following her match against Blichfeldt. While Sindhu went into the encounter on the back of a 3-0 record against her opponent, the latter was no pushover. The world number 18 had been getting better in each of those matches and had taken a set off the Indian in their last encounter at the Indonesia Open in July 2019.
It was the Indian who looked as if she would race to a 4-0 head-to-head record, with Blichfeldt looking out of her depth in the first game and most of the second. Sindhu looked to have returned from her long break with additional power, no loss of speed, touch and no sign of rustiness as she worked her opponent across the court.
Blichfeldt never led until very early in the second game and it was the Indian who went into the break with a 11-8 lead. The Dane, though, would catch up and eventually start pulling ahead in the second half. Although, Blichfeldt got a surprise game point at 20-19, it was still a Sindhu win that appeared the likely outcome at this point. The two players traded leads with Sindhu claiming two match point opportunities of her own. Neither was converted though as Blichfeldt forced a decider.
From that point, Blitchfeldt grew significantly in confidence. She found the lines regularly and her high tosses pushed Sindhu back with no loss of accuracy. Blichfeldt went into the final break with a 5 point lead and although the Indian enjoyed a bit of fortune with two smashes hitting the net cord and falling over to her opponents side of the court, there would be no turn of momentum.
What remains in Sindhu's favour is the fact that since the tournament does not offer ranking points, the loss will not hurt either her ranking or her prospects for the Olympics.
While Blichfeldt advances further in the tournament, Sindhu will look to pick herself up from the defeat, and get ready for the forthcoming Thailand Open World Tour event that will be played on these same courts next week.