‘It's been a great year. I think all the players have done well’
National badminton coach, Pullela Gopichand, on Wednesday, expressed happiness at the performance this year of Indian shuttlers and termed Kidambi Srikanth's feat of winning four Super Series titles as ‘phenomenal’.
"It's been a great year. I think all the players have done well. At the beginning of the year if you had said this is what you would get this year, I would have taken it very happily," said Gopichand in Mumbai.
"In the big events - World Championships or Super Series events, we have done well. Also varied people have done well. Last year was, may be, (P V) Sindhu's year. This year men's singles has come off (well). Three of them winning Super Series titles, winning GP gold level - (HS) Prannoy and Sameer (Verma) winning. Overall it has been a good year. Now hoping for a good finish in Dubai (Super Series finals) to what has been a great year already," he remarked.
"We have a pretty cramped calendar in the world level. Considering that, what we have been able to manage has been good. It's a good stepping stone for the next year as well," he noted.
"To win four Super Series titles and becoming runner-up at one and, at the end of the year, reaching a ranking of world no. 2 is phenomenal. Not many players in world badminton (have achieved that). The only players who have achieved what he has achieved - we call them legends of the sport across time," said Gopichand on Srikanth's brilliant run this year.
Srikanth had started his brilliant title-run by clinching the men's singles title in the Indonesian Super Series and followed it up by winning the singles Super Series crowns in Australia, Denmark and France.
In between, the Hyderabad shuttler also finished runner-up to compatriot B Sai Praneeth in the Singapore SS and was a losing quarter finalist in the World Championships.
"He's 24 and has many more years to compete. (With) Lee Chong Wei at 34 and Lin Dan at 33 (still playing), we can expect that he has 8-10 years of badminton left in him. What he has achieved is phenomenal. What he can achieve, considering his potential, is unbelievable," Gopichand gushed.
On Sindhu, silver medal winner in women's singles at last year's Rio Olympics, Gopichand said it was a fine display by the lanky shuttler to maintain such high levels the year after the sports spectacle in Brazil.
"Sindhu has been good - Super Series wins in the India Open and Korea and finals of the Super Series in Hong Kong and the World Championship (silver) medal. To come back after an Olympic year and, in the next year, perform like that and finish off as world no. 2 is good.
"She had problems with (Spain's Olympic champion) Carolina (Marin), she beat her; with (Japan's Akane), Yamaguchi, she beat her. She is improving as a player. I believe, the next year could be even better. She is just 22, young and has a lot of potential."
He also said that Saina Nehwal, bronze medallist in the 2012 London Games who has moved back to Hyderabad from Bengaluru after the World Championships, is showing what she is capable of after her injury last year during the Olympics.
“We will have to work on a few aspects of her game. It's good that in the last few tournaments she had good performances - beating Carolina after a while and the match against Chen Yufei which she played. Overall she is showing that she is capable now. She needs to be fitter and also get back from her injury, as well as ensure she is physically stronger to win match after match," said Gopichand.
Looking ahead to next year's Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast, Australia, and the Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia, Gopichand hoped that the shuttlers's display would be better than that at Glasgow, Scotland and Incheon, South Korea.
"Every two years we have these big events – whether it's Commonwealth Games, or Asian Games or the Olympics. We are hoping we will come out strongly. In 2014 there were good performances and hopefully we can better it."