PV Sindhu lacked the finishing bite, but otherwise looked in fine nick in her first competitive outing since the All England last year. Playing the pugnacious Dane Mia Blichfeldt, Sindhu would struggle to take her customary power game the whole 74-minute distance and exit in the first round on her return from a long break, losing 21-16, 24-26, 13-21.

It’s been a nervous spring and one long winter of the pandemic pause, but the rustiness aside, Sindhu seemed none the worse for the wear. It’s early season still, and the August Olympics will be her main target. But with no ramifications of her January performances on the Games and Sindhu never at the mercy of a favourable draw to assert her class, the 26-year-old was in familiar territory, six months before the big championship she annually targets.

Mia cost Saina Nehwal a shy at the 2019 World Championship medal and can be hard to put down when she goes on her rampage. She likes getting stuck into the best and boasts the chops to trouble the bigger names. Sindhu, only just reacquainting herself with the job of putting down mutinies, wasn’t the usual biting self.

Not unveiling her new weapons just yet, she would get ambushed nearing the end of the second set where despite two match points, she always looked two points too far from sealing the game.

The defense verged on sloppy as the match prolonged, and though her attack was not too shabby, there was little to no direction and purpose in turning the knife in. That India was going through a wringer at that point, deprived of a coach after two positive tests, made her look more rudderless.

The reigning World champion had exited All England similarly – playing not too badly but not enough to win last February. As such, she picked up from where she left off – her game a sturdy scaffolding but not much else.

“My first match after All England. And I prepared well but it was not my day. I should’ve finished it off in the second set. I had a 4-1 lead in the third. I made mistakes then. I wanted to cover the lead but it was too much,” she would tell BWF.

Much has changed in the world – coach Kim is now animatedly cheering for her home team Koreans.

“We are back on court. And the tournament is happening. We have to get used to playing without spectators. Unfortunately couldn’t have the coach as well so that made a difference,” she would say. “Just a bit (of a) difference.”

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