Chief national coach Pullela Gopichand has seen Indian badminton grow and has helped several players reach the top. Recently, the former All England Open champion was courtside dispensing with his advice as PV Sindhu won the BWF World Tour Finals in Guangzhou, China, after losing seven straight summit clashes.
In an interview, Gopichand spoke about Sindhu’s latest triumph and the overall direction Indian badminton is taking. Excerpts:
What did Sindhu do differently to win a title after so long?
She was, of course, moving very well (on the court). But one primary thing was that she was more relaxed. The way she played her matches through the first few rounds also ensured that she was a lot more confident and that showed in the entire match (final against Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara).
She has eventually broken the jinx of losing finals…
There was lot of talk (in media) that the jinx thing has been cracked but I don’t think that was the case. Each tournament she played, she lost either because the opponent played better or she kind of got tired in the matches before reaching the final. I don’t think about things like a jinx, that would be unfair to her. But yes to the outside world if you lose 5-6 finals it may look like a jinx, but not from my side.
You have seen it both as a player and coach. How does it mentally affect a player who loses so many finals in a row?
One of the reasons players play at this level is because they are able to withstand this kind of pressure and move on irrespective of wins or losses. Sindhu is also like that. She would be unhappy about the results (for some time) but then move on and that has been her strength.
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How do you see the overall growth trajectory of India badminton? What are the challenges?
The last decade has brought Indian badminton to the fore. Today if we look at the number of top players, or those with consistent performance in big events, Indians feature in it and there are multiple players in multiple events. So I am quite happy with the progress.
2018 wasn’t that good for Kidambi Srinakth and HS Prannoy. How do you see the upcoming season for them?
Unfortunately, it has been a tough year for the male players also because the number of tournaments they have to mandatorily play based on their rankings and also in the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games, which made it tough. We had injury and fitness issues with a few too. But overall at the end of the year, I am happy with the way things are.
Does playing in PBL expose Indian players’ style, training methods etc to foreign shuttlers?
The league has had a positive impact. Playing for the country and the league, complement each other. The opportunity to play with top shuttlers helps our players grow quickly. I don’t think it (playing with foreign players) impacts negatively. I think it helps them develop faster.
Both your daughter Gayatri and son Sai Vishnu are doing well in juniors. Was it a conscious decision to get them to play badminton?
I am happy that they are playing the sport. Considering that as a family, the badminton talk they were exposed to early on, and the time we spent in the stadium, it was natural for them to take up badminton.
When his son started playing cricket, Sachin Tendulkar had asked the media not to focus too much on his son. Do you want a similar approach for your children so that they don’t face the pressure of your exploits?
Whatever pressure they have, they have, whatever advantages they have, they have. I don’t think I am in control of it, though I wish I was. But they have to live with it and if they can come up from that in a year from now, hopefully they would be good badminton players who play and do well for the country.
First Published: Dec 21, 2018 09:20 IST