It was one step too far for PV Sindhu, who ran into an inspired Carolina Marin in the final with the Spaniard showing just why she is the best women's player in the world at the moment. Looking to become the first Indian woman to win an individual gold medal in the Olympics for India, Sindhu fell short and had to settle for a silver medal at Rio 2016.
After putting on a terrific show in the semifinal on Thursday, when she beat Nozomi Okuhara, Sindhu just could not find that dominance, rhythm or manage a way to dictate the pace of the game against Marin, who took control from the start and, while she relinquished it in a late first game meltdown, regained it soon after with such calm that there was no stopping her. The Spaniard and world number one took the Olympic gold medal after beating Sindhu 19-21, 21-12, 21-15 in a final that lasted an hour and 23 minutes.
The sign of things to come was seen right from the off, when Marin jumped into an early lead, with the Spaniard taking an 11-6 advantage into the mid-game break. That bulged to 12-6, and from there the game looked done.
Sindhu, though, is made of stern stuff, there is no "OK, let's let this go and concentrate on the next game" in her. The Indian brought the score down to 9-12, with three straight points, and then 15-16, before, when the game looked Marin's at 19-16, the girl from Hyderabad ran in five straight points to stun the Spaniard 21-19.
Marin is playing at a different level nowadays, and the quickness that she shows on court really is second to none. Just when you think you have a winner in your hands, the world and European champion somehow finds a way to get a racquet to it, and not just get it there, but make a great play as well. So, to stay with her takes a superlative effort, a level that Sindhu managed to find in that first game.
The second game, though, Marin came back with a vengeance, showing why she is currently the world number one. She won the first four points, before the lead went up to 11-2 in the mid-game break, showing the champion stuff Marin's made of.
Even Sindhu, in such prime form, could not stay with the Spaniard, who went on to take the second game comfortably enough.
The key for India's 21-year-old would have been to jump to a fast start in the decider, and not let Marin run away with the early points, but it was not to be as the 23-year-old from Huelva took six of the first seven points to keep that control firmly in her corner, and despite a fighting effort from Sindhu – she brought it to 10-10 with a couple of wonderful rallies in there – the gold medal was to be the Spaniard's, the first time a European has won the title in the women's singles.
Sindhu, though, with the silver, became the first Indian woman to win a medal better than a bronze, and that is a record that she can be extremely proud of.