Sindhu, Rani, Thapa feature in moments of the year

Everything good that India did in their 6-5 aggregate win over the U.S. seemed to flow through Rani Rampal. Hockey India

From PV Sindhu's World Championships triumph to Rani Rampal's goal to secure India's passage to Tokyo, here are our top picks for moment of the year:

ESPN India Awards 2019: Full coverage

Rani Rampal seals India's Tokyo berth

India faced U.S. in the women's hockey qualifiers for the Olympics in a two-legged tie in Bhubaneswar, and the hosts seemed to have the Olympic berth in the bag with a commanding 5-1 win on the first day. However, the U.S. came out all guns blazing in the first two quarters the following day, and made it 4-0 at half-time. India needed to defend stoutly for one quarter, and then Rani provided a moment of magic, picking up a stray ball on a counter-attack and slamming it home early in the fourth quarter. India held on, and qualified for successive Olympics in women's hockey for the first time ever.

READ: 'Calm' Rani leads by example again to keep Olympic dream alive

Nagal takes a set off Federer

Sumit Nagal became the fifth Indian man in the last six years to reach the main draw of a Grand Slam singles event when he made the main draw of the 2019 US Open. To add to that sense of a fairy-tale run, he was drawn to play Roger Federer on centre court at the Arthur Ashe arena in the first round. Nagal produced some consistent groundstrokes to take the first set 6-4. Though he would go on to lose in four sets, he made the tennis world sit up and take notice of his talent, drawing praise from his opponent as well.

READ: 'I think he's going to have a very solid career' - Federer on Sumit Nagal

Sindhu conquers the world

There was literally no competition for PV Sindhu at the World Championships in Basel in 2019, as she won all but one of her matches in straight games. It took her just 37 minutes to overpower Nozomi Okuhara 21-7, 21-7 in the final, a record for fewest points conceded in a World Championships singles final since the 21-point format was introduced. This was also India's first gold at the World Championships, and Sindhu's fifth medal in just six appearances at the event.

READ: 21 wins, 2 silvers, 2 bronzes, 1 gold: Sindhu completes the Worlds set

India thrash Thailand in Asian Cup

India were playing Thailand in their Asian Cup opener in Abu Dhabi, just their second appearance in the continental finals after 1984. In 2011, they were drawn with heavyweights South Korea, Bahrain and Australia, and lost all their matches, scoring just three goals in all. In a few minutes on their return to the continental elite, Sunil Chhetri scored off a penalty, before Thailand pulled one back at half-time. India played a smart game on the counter in the second half, and Chhetri scored again to give India some breathing space. Off another such counter, the ball fell to 20-year-old Anirudh Thapa, playing just his 12th match for India, and he rounded off the defence and the goalkeeper and chipped the ball into the net. India would add a fourth to make it a resounding comeback to Asia's elite, but Thapa's finish stood out as the moment that India made a statement.

READ: Anirudh Thapa: It's not for the Indian team, it's for the whole of India

Bengal prevail in thrilling PKL finale

Dabang Delhi made a blistering start, inflicting an all-out inside the first eight minutes to go 11-3. However, Bengal Warriors, playing their first PKL final just like their opponents, came back strongly and made it 17-17 at half-time. The Bengal defence rose to the occasion in the second half, and in the injury-enforced absence of their best player, Maninder Singh, Iran's Mohammad Esmaeil Nabibakhsh provided the cutting edge as raider. Bengal held their nerve, and neutralised Delhi's Naveen Kumar expertly to emerge 39-34 winners.

READ: Mohammad Nabibakhsh, a gamble that proved title-clinching masterstroke

India hold the Asian champs

India went into their first away qualifier for the 2022 World Cup to Asian champions Qatar, who had beaten every opposition within Asia during a stellar 2019. India, who had lost their opening match 2-1 against Oman, were without captain Sunil Chhetri, and in effect chose to field a conservative eleven. They defended hard, with goalkeeper Gurpreet Singh Sandhu leading the way with his saves. India blanked out Qatar, becoming the first Asian nation to do so in the calendar year, and even created a couple of half-chances on the counter late in the game.

READ: Qatar draw showcases unafraid, risk-taking India