Carolina Marin struggles to sound audible over the shrill announcer at Frankfurt airport. She's on her way back home to Spain after a historic third Worlds title but is happy to take a few questions on her familiar Indian opponent, PV Sindhu, who she's now beaten at two major finals within two years.
If the 2016 Rio Olympics spilled to three close games and threatened to swing either way, last weekend's World Championships final was largely about Marin's unwavering dominance. "I don't know why exactly she (Sindhu) can't win a gold medal at a major event," Marin tells ESPN. "When you play a final you tend to feel nerves, maybe Sindhu should try to control that."
The Sindhu-Marin Rio final two years ago was watched by 17.2 million TV viewers in India, making it the highest-rated non-cricket game on any sports network. Off court, both players, two years apart in age, are known to share a warm camaraderie.
"Sindhu and I are really good friends," Marins says. "We may not go out shopping together during tournaments or share secrets, but to play against someone I know really well, I had to prepare hard too. I know what I need to do against her every time we play each other. Mainly in the first game, for me it was about keeping calm and being patient. I don't know if she was nervous or if I put pressure on her with my service or generally during the game. I just wanted to keep my focus and I managed to do that."
Over the past few months, Marin has been discreetly trying to master a foreign tongue, one that can count as a formidable skill-set in the badminton scenario. She sidesteps the allusions towards the gains it can bring to her game and the insight it can offer her on opponents. "I'm learning Mandarin to get closer to Chinese people and communicate with my friends in China. The accent is entirely different from Spanish so it's quite tough for me," Marin says.
Starting out as a Flamenco dancer, even when she was as young as 14, Marin had told coach Fernando Rivas she dreamt of becoming European, world, Olympic champion and world No 1. At 25, she's attained each one of them. "I never thought I would get here. When I came to play in Nanjing (for the World Championships) I just thought about giving my best and getting a good feeling on court. Becoming the first player to win three world titles means a lot. I feel happy and proud."
It's all still a blur: the title, the history and Marin has a quiet celebration in mind. "I'm still in the moment. It will take me a few days to come back to the ground and process what I've achieved. But it's been a fantastic week," she says, "I'm just going to sleep, rest, recover and celebrate at home with my family and dogs."