FROM RIO TO DUBAI
Rio de Janeiro and Dubai are thousands and thousands of miles away, 11,862 kilometres apart, to be precise. And they are totally different cities in terms of landscape, people as well as culture.
But there is perhaps one similarity that will blend both of these beautiful and vibrant cities together. After that heady August evening in Rio, Dubai braces for one of the rivalries which is slowly building up to be one that can be storied.
Dubai will be the centre stage on Friday when reigning Olympic champion Spaniard Carolina Marin and India's PV Sindhu, the Olympic silver medallist, renew their battle. Finding themselves in the same Group B of the Dubai BWF World Superseries Finals, Sindhu and Marin will cross paths for the second time in four months.
And a tantalising fixture lay in prospect with two players who have a penchant for aggressive play. The left-handed Marin goes for broke and so does Sindhu and it will perhaps be a case of who will blink first. Madrid native Marin holds the upper hand when it comes to head-to-head meetings with them having crossed paths seven times before and the Spaniard acing it 5-2. But then, Sindhu has been slowly bridging the gap over the Spaniard as that Olympics final clearly showed.
Ahead of their impending date on Friday, both the players didn't bite the bait and didn't spar. Clearly, they have enough respect for each other.
"It is going to be tough and it is not going to be an easy match. Nobody is going to give easy points and nobody is going to get easy points," said Sindhu.
"Both are equally strong and she has a different style of play. She is a very aggressive player and I'm also an aggressive player. She knows my game and I also know her game so, it is just that on that day, it is how your strategy will really work on that day and the game plan how we plan it accordingly and discuss with our coaches and go with it on court," added the 21-year-old. Marin too kept it away from her mind.
"I don't want to talk about Sindhu because I have to play against Yamaguchi and Sun Yu so it is going to be very tough matches," Marin had said before the start of the tournament.
But she did say: "Of course, against Sindhu, it is going to be another top match. And it is really nice to play against her again because we can replay the final of the Olympics."
And talking of the Olympics, it was the fulfilment of a long cherished dream for Marin and a massive weight off her shoulders. As a 19-year-old at the London Olympics, Marin couldn't make it out of the group stages.
It was then she vowed to make it her life's mission to win it in Rio and she even got a tattoo of the Olympic rings on her left wrist.
"When I was young, I had decided that if I ever went to the Olympics, I will make the tattoo. So, after London, I made it and of course when I went to London it was another experience. I was too young and I didn't have so much experience. But for this Olympics, everything had changed because I had won two World Championships and also the European Championship. And one of the goals was to win the Olympic gold. So, it was a very different experience," said Marin.
The Olympics was a dream for Sindhu as well but she was bested by a better opponent on the day. Nonetheless, the Hyderabadi felt that this was just the start. "It was my dream which has come true so it was a fantastic year for me. In the final, I gave my 100 percent but it is just that only one can win and the other will lose. Even she (Marin) played really well and it is just that two or three points and I just lost it. I think definitely a lot more to learn and that is only the start for me. It is still a long way to go. It was a wonderful week for me because each match was equally strong and of course, my first Olympics. So, I was really very satisfied with my performance," said Sindhu. Badminton was a stronghold of the Chinese and the Indonesians with them enjoying a monopoly once upon a time. But things are changing with Denmark, India as well as Spain coming into the fold.
So, Marin's performances have been path-breaking. She is an All England champion, European champion as well as a World Champion. And come to think of it, badminton wouldn't have seen Marin had she pursued her first love - flamenco dancing.
"I want to win more titles like All England again, the World Championship, and I also want to prepare over the next four years for the Olympics in Tokyo. Of course, it will be difficult because I'm not No.1 now and I'm the player everyone wants to defeat. So, for me, it is really difficult because I broke the China or the Asian wall because it is just one European being in the top of the world rankings. And it is like one against 15 or 20 in the world and for me it is really difficult. But it is also amazing that I can be there in the top of the world rankings and it is an amazing feeling for me," said the 23-year-old, who is good friends with tennis ace Rafael Nadal.
Meanwhile, Sindhu revealed that she is mentally stronger than she was before.
"I think I've definitely improved on the mental aspect. I think I'm much more aggressive comparatively and talking about the game, it's not that she's leading and you just go down thinking that it's over. It is not that way. You fightback and come back and that is the most important thing that I've learnt in my game. Also, I've worked on all my strokes so I've been improving on my defence as well," said Sindhu. So, a battle royale awaits, firstname.lastname@example.org
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