During a felicitation function in Mumbai last year, Pullela Gopi Chand called out Saina's name and the ace shuttler quickly wrapped up her interaction and called it a day. It was only 10.30 pm and even the visitors at the function were surprised that the player had judiciously obeyed her mentor's orders.
The question that came to mind was how long would this continue, considering Saina's growing stature and her increasing social and commercial commitments.
Beginning on an end
It is difficult to pinpoint when the beginning of the end of this relationship started. But the final nail was hammered when Saina and P Kashyap wrote to the Sports Authority of India in February, conveying their intension to train exclusively with SAI coach, Bhaskar Babu, that too at the Gopi Chand Academy.
Gopi Chand did accompany Saina to the All England Open and the Swiss Grand Prix, but the communication between them had stopped and Babu had started taking care of every aspect of their training.
Both Gopi Chand and Saina are insisting there is nothing wrong between them and that the new arrangement is just a matter of convenience. However, the argument doesn't hold weight, as the new arrangement should not stop Gopi Chand from sitting on the sidelines during Saina's matches when he is at the venue.
Even if we accept the explanation that he was busy with another match, it was shocking to see the former All England champion not by her side when she was inconsolable after her first-round loss in the India Open Super Series last month.
Behind the scenes
Only Saina and Gopi Chand know what has led to this rift. But the talk is that the player wanted more freedom. She is now a celebrity and it is sometimes difficult to blindly follow the rules set by someone else, even if he is your mentor.
However, there is scope for reconciliation as Saina continues to train at the academy and both know that they need each other’s support to achieve their goals.