Shaking off a wobbly start, PV Sindhu scythed past rising Dane Mia Blichfeldt to make her first final since the 2019 World Championships, with a 22-20, 21-10 win at the Swiss Open on Saturday. She will face an old foe, Olympic champion Carolina Marin, in the final. The Jakobshalle arena in Basel where the Super 300 event is being hosted incidentally was also the setting for the Indian's world title conquest.
Blichfeldt showed some strong resistance early in the first game, attacking Sindhu's front court and dictating rallies. There was sufficient reason for caution for Sindhu. In the first Thailand event this year following the pandemic pause, the 23-year old had wrung Sindhu dry in three games. She'd also run amok over Saina Nehwal's plans to make a record ninth World Championships quarterfinal appearance in 2019. From three points adrift in the mid-game interval, the reigning European Games champion smoked crosscourt forehands and spun deception into her service returns to go level at 17-17. The Dane saved three game points but Sindhu managed to put out the fires in time, dispatching a full-blooded smash to take the first game.
In an Olympic year where even the tiniest alterations can have an oversized impact, Sindhu has opted for a change in training scene. Following the Asia leg of tournaments, she has been training alongside coach Park Tae Sang at Hyderabad's Gachibowli stadium to simulate Tokyo-like conditions. Blichfeldt, who idolises fellow European Marin, has sculpted her game similar to the Spaniard's aggressive style. In contrast to Asian players, largely inscrutable toilers and quiet runners with a gift for endless rallies, Marin and Blichfeldt, the only two Europeans in the women's singles top-20, have a penchant for speed and quicker points. In an interview to Olympic Channel, Blichfeldt confessed her admiration for another 'Caro'- fellow Dane and tennis star Wozniacki and of being a sore loser even if it's cards, table tennis or football in the garden. On Saturday, she was forced to make peace with a defeat, after Sindhu returned with flatter shots and an amped-up defense in the second game.
The Indian hasn't dropped a game so far this week, but is yet to take down former world No 1 Marin in a major final, and will go into Sunday's match as the slightly lesser favorite. Marin has typically troubled Sindhu with her pace and the world No 7 will have to find a way to counter the Spaniard's assaults in order to survive.