Saina Nehwal’s mentor said it was a great day for Indian badminton, hoping that Saturday would be better. There will be many who will claim shares of the credit now but not many would be as happy as Pullela Gopi Chand, under whose eyes the 16-year-old has blossomed over the last two years.
The genial Hyderabadi was in town to encourage a school-level meet — he was here for a similar initiative in June last year.
While speaking about the future of the game in India, Gopi Chand had then singled out Saina as a bright prospect. She was just a trainee at the former All England champion’s academy then and not many had heard of her.
Now that Saina has brought her potential to the fore, Gopi Chand says it was Saina’s fighting spirit that drew his attention early on.
“She had this habit of beating players above her age in the various age-group events. She was a big-match player who could deliver under pressure from a young age. After that, it was a question of working on her basics like fitness, speed and mobility.”
Gopi Chand has high hopes of his ward . “I think she can win medals at the big senior events like the Olympics, World Championships, Asian Games and the All England. This (the world junior final) is a good stepping stone,” the coach of the Indian team told Hindustan Times.
But Gopi Chand sounded a word of caution: “Saina has age on her side but she has to work a lot in almost all the areas like on-court movement and develop her technical abilities.”