WOMEN singles players continue to bloom in India with another star P. V. Sindhu making her lovely presence felt.
The 17-year-old Sindhu showed that Malaysia is a happy hunting ground when she gave former All-England champion Wang Yihan a worthy fight before bowing out 21-19, 16-21, 14-21 in the Group A tie between India and China at the Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil yesterday.
She played the role as the first singles for the first time in the team event in the absence of her injured senior and Olympic Games bronze medallist Saina Nehwal.
India eventually lost 0-5 but Sindhu from Andra Pradesh can walk tall.
Just two weeks ago, she nailed her first career Open title with a determined showing at the Malaysian Open Grand Prix Gold tournament at the Juara Stadium.
She had mixed fortunes over her defeat to Yihan. If she had not made several crucial mistakes in the second game, Yihan could have been her third big Chinese scalp in her blossoming career.
She had beaten Olympic champion Li Xuerui in the quarter-finals of the China Masters last year and stunned 2010 Asian Games gold medallist Wang Shixian in the second round of the Asian Badminton Championships in Taiwan last month.
Sindhu, who trains under former All-England champion P. Gopichand, was happy to follow in the footsteps of Saina in giving the Chinese shuttlers a tough fight.
“It was my first meeting against Yihan. I played well but in the second game, I made a few errors and she capitalised on that. She was more experienced,” said world No. 13 Sindhu.
“I guess, I am enjoying myself as there are no pressure on me. I train together with Saina under Gopichand and hopefully, by the end of this year, I can break into the top 10.
“I want to be like Saina and overtake her one day but I know, it will involve a lot of hard work. I am willing to go through the mill,” said Sindhu, who became her country’s first Asian Junior champion last year.
The 2011 world champion Yihan said she had under-estimated her young opponent and saw potential in Sindhu.
“She is a much younger player and one can see that difference between us on court. I did not expect her to return some of the impossible shots. She did make life difficult for me,” said the 25-year-old Yihan.