How PV Sindhu can take advantage of Marin's unfortunate absence at Tokyo 2020

Reigning Olympic champion Carolina Marin will undergo surgery on her left knee later this week.

By Utathya Nag
Picture by Getty Images

Spanish badminton ace Carolina Marin, on Tuesday, ruled herself out of Tokyo 2020, ending any hopes of a much-anticipated PV Sindhu vs Carolina Marin title clash at the upcoming Olympics.

In an emotional message shared on social media, the current world No. 3 revealed that she has torn her ACL and both menisci in her left knee and will be undergoing surgery next week.

“This is another blow that I have to deal with, but I will certainly be back. The preparation in the last two months had become very difficult for reasons beyond the team's control, but we were excited and knew that I would be in the best shape for the Olympics. It won't be possible,” part of Marin’s message read.

Carolina Marin and India’s PV Sindhu locked horns in the Rio 2016 final and it was the Spaniard who came out on top and clinched gold after a memorable contest. The Spaniard came back from a game down to beat Sindhu 19-21, 21-12, 21-15.

Since then, PV Sindhu has gone on to become the world champion in 2019 and the badminton world, including Indian fans, were eagerly looking forward to a possible Rio 2016 final re-match between the two arch-rivals - and close friends - at Tokyo.

Though the Tokyo Olympics are still two months away, ACL injuries take substantial time to heal. Even if Carolina Marin makes a miraculous recovery, her participation at Tokyo is a long shot at best.

In 2019, Carolina Marin ruptured the ACL in her right knee and was sidelined for seven months.

Carolina Marin in form

The Spaniard impressed post her return, winning the China Open, Syed Modi International and Italian Open in 2019.

After a quiet 2020 and the COVID-enforced break, Carolina Marin reached the final of all five tournaments – two Thailand Opens, the BWF World Tour Finals, Swiss Open and European Championships - she competed in 2021.

Barring the World Tour Finals, she won all of them and looked in prime form to retain her Olympic title heading into Tokyo.

Carolina Marin, though, opted to pull out of the All England Open after the left knee injury she had picked up during the Indonesia Masters 2020 final aggravated. However, rest wasn’t enough and she will need surgery.

While unfortunate, Carolina Marin’s absence at Tokyo will boost PV Sindhu’s gold medal chances at Tokyo.

The Spaniard is one of the very few players in world badminton against whom Sindhu doesn’t enjoy a positive head-to-head record. The Indian trails 9-5 against Marin.

Since their summit clash at Rio 2016, PV Sindhu and Carolina Marin have faced off seven times, with the Indian winning three and the Spanish ace coming out on top in four.

PV Sindhu’s last victory over Carolina Marin came in the 2018 Malaysia Open quarter-finals. Marin, meanwhile, has won the last three meetings on a trot, including the recent Swiss Open final in March.

“You feel bad when you lose,” PV Sindhu told Outlook. “You introspect a lot but sometimes you play well and lose.

“It’s not that I can’t beat a Marin or a Tai Tzu (Ying), it’s just that somewhere in a couple of points I have used the wrong strategy. We have to cut down on those bad days.”

The Indian shuttler, however, will still have her work cut out in Tokyo with current world No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei, China’s Chen Yu Fei, Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara, Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon populating a star-studded entry list.

The onus will now be on the Indian to deliver.

“Definitely there are going to be expectations. Whatever it is, I have to give my best,” PV Sindhu said. “Rather than thinking for others, I will have to play well for myself. If I do well, I do well for India and everyone will be happy.”