Gopichand positive about India's chances at All England

The chief coach feels India has a better chance this time around at the All England Championship, starting next week.

THE BIG GUNS: P.V. Sindhu, B. Sai Praneeth, chief coach Gopichand, K. Srikanth, Saina Nehwal and H.S. Prannoy at the Gopichand Academy in Hyderabad.   -  V.V. SUBRAHMANYAM

The chief national coach Pullela Gopichand himself is an inspirational figure for the strongest-ever Indian contingent leaving for the prestigious All England championship next week. He was the last champion from India there in the 2001 edition.

“Yes, years have gone by, the event has become stronger as more and more players are looking to do well there. But, with renewed hope we should have a champion in both men’s and women’s singles, I feel Indians are very strong contenders this time around compared to earlier editions,” says Gopi in a chat with Sportstar.

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“It looks exciting for the fact that two women (P.V. Sindhu and Saina Nehwal) and three men (K. Srikanth, H.S. Prannoy) have the potential to win the title this time around and what is heartening is that even the doubles combinations are capable of doing much better too,” says a confident coach.

“The biggest challenge for the players can well be the conditions and the aura of the championship itself. It can be a bit overwhelming compared to other Super Series. The conditions will be challenging both physically and mentally for anyone,” feels Gopi.

“I am not overtly concerned about the draw. There is very little to differentiate among the top players. They know each other so much and whoever plays better on that day will be the winner. And, you need five good days to win a title,” he says.

“I don’t see any big issues with the new service rule as we are well prepared thanks to Sudhakar Sir enlightening the players about it,” he says.

“Yes, I sincerely hope that the interpretation is the same for all umpires. Because, it is still a human decision about the contact point of the shuttle at the time of serve. It would be really interesting to see how the umpire implements the rule in it actual sense,” Gopi says.

Also Read: Saina Nehwal geared up for All-England Championship

“When Prakash Sir and I were playing and later on Saina, Indian interest was player-specific. But now given the number of quality players, we are a force to reckon with.”

Is the All England one title he badly looks for as a coach? “Honestly, I don’t really look at it that way. It is still part of the sequence of major events, some come first and some later. As I have said this is a big year for badminton itself with the Commonwealth, Asian Games and the Worlds scheduled. So, it would be great if we start with a big win in the All England to set the momentum for the rest of the year,” Gopi explains.

“Yes, it looks strange after Prakash won it, I did after 20 years. Now, it is 17 years since I won. Sounds as if I had won it only yesterday. There were many milestones though I have not won many big events. But, All England will remain the defining moment of my career as people remember more as a player who had won it. Those moments keep coming back to me,” says a smiling Gopi.

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