Buoyed by P V Sindhu’s recent triumph, Indian chief national coach Pullela Gopichand Friday said the world number two Olympic silver medallist is primed to win the prestigious All England Open. Gopichand was the last Indian to win the All England Championship, in 2001, achieving the coveted feat after 21 years of Prakash Padukone’s 1980 title.
Sindhu ended 2018 on a high winning the BWF World Tour Finals in Guangzhou, after losing seven straight summit clashes. “I think this year Sindhu has done well in all big tournaments. The World Tour Finals win has been even better. It’s a great start to come in to this year,” Gopichand told reporters here, citing the upcoming All England Open in March.
With this being the penultimate year before the Olympics, Gopichand’s main aim is to keep the Indian shuttlers’ ranking high to ensure a bigger contingent for Tokyo 2020. “We have two major tournaments this year, the All England Open Championship and World Championships, also we have the Olympics qualifiers. “The main target will be to ensure that we have high ranking and go to the Olympics with the biggest team.” “Other sports are doing well and badminton is among them. This year, CWG and Asian Games we have done well. We hope to do well in future.”
The men’s team have not done well in 2018 but Gopichand pointed out that three of their players — Kidambi Srikanth, H S Prannoy and B Sai Praneeth — are among the top 20. “At the end of the year, we have three athletes in top 20. I am happy with the men’s singles performance. Of course 2017 has been phenomenal. This was much tougher than 2017. We had the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games that also took away two months of preparation time. And also the new BWF calendar asked top players to play lot more so players became prone to injuries.”
Gopichand said Srikkanth would bounce back strongly this year after a trophy-less 2018. “Prannoy was recovering from an injury, for Srikanth it might sound that it has been a championship less year, but he has consistently reached quarterfinals and semifinals. He is somebody who is very good and will make a comeback.”
Gopichand also remembered how he missed the national sub-junior in Kolkata after being left alone at the Salt Lake Stadium. “I never cried so much in entire life,” Gopichand said remembering the instance when he missed his second round match at the Netaji Indoor Stadium.
Struggling with the city’s humid conditions, a 14-year-old Gopichand had returned to his room at the Salt Lake Stadium after playing his first round match in the 1980s. He was unaware that he had a second round draw in the evening.
“When I realised it was late and I was left alone at the Salt Lake Stadium. I didn’t know the way to Netaji Indoor. I kept running from pillar to post, crying out aloud. But there was no one to listen to. It was kind of scary when I look back.”
He recalled his knee injury in 1994 at the peak of his career and how it made him a better player and a coach. “People started throwing phrases at me… Like yeh langda hai kabhi nahin khel sakta (He cannot play again). I took them as challenges. I just wanted to get back. I had to get back.
“When I look back, all of that has helped me. All those experiences made me a better coach and how much I loved the sport. It really helps me as a coach now. I would not have known how it feels like when you fail,” he concluded.