Over 6 feet tall, and having just won her first title at Macau, the 18-year-old from Guangdong, though currently ranked 124, is someone coach Gopichand talks of in a tone hinting at caution.
At 183 cms, the girl enjoys obvious advantages of reach and a steep game, and suffers from fewer of the mobility issues that are typical to tall athletes. And blessed with a raspingly fast racquet speed, Sun displayed a solid back-hand game. Starting from the qualifiers she won 7 matches in a row to announce her arrival on the seniors stage in China winning in Macau.
Toss the shuttle up — as the Thai Busanan Ongbumrungpan did ocassionally — and Sun would send down missiles. Opponents needed to be patient and stick to defensive ploys to pin her down, though the most visible vulnerability was when she was drawn to the net and forced to stretch awkwardly playing on the forecourt forehand corner.
Saina and Sindhu (herself a 5'9") face a towering challenge in 2013, even as China are set to better themselves by adding Sun Yu to an already impressive array of five Top 10 players. The Chinese hark back to the last decade when Xie Xingfang and Zhang Ning were their twin towers (both 5'8"-plus) dominating world badminton. Now Sun has stepped in to add to the stature.
Shivani is a special correspondent based in Mumbai.