Sen showed he is made for the big league: Pullela Gopichand
The Almora-born shuttler has had a tremendous run of form in the latter half of this year, winning five out of seven tournaments since September.Updated: Dec 20, 2019 23:46 IST
India’s chief national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand believes the promising Lakshya Sen’s steep surge this season has proven that the 18-year-old is cut out to make a mark on the big stage.
The Almora-born shuttler has had a tremendous run of form in the latter half of this year, winning five out of seven tournaments since September. It included his maiden BWF World Tour title at the Dutch Open Super 100 in October, and a triumph at the Bangladesh International Challenger last Sunday to cap off the season in style.
“The way he (Lakshya) has played this year, it is definitely a testimony to the fact that he belongs to the top level of world badminton,” Gopichand said on the sidelines of the launch of Badminton Gurukul in the city.
Having started the year at the 109th spot in the BWF rankings, Lakshya—who trains under Vimal Kumar at the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy—has scaled to a career-high world No 32. The rise in rankings means that Lakshya will have a chance to get into the bigger tournaments next season, and Gopichand felt it was just a matter of time before the youngster earns his right to compete against the world’s top players.
“I do believe that the way he is going about his game, he will be in the big league very soon. He has risen very quickly, and it shows that he has the talent and potential to go all the way. Hopefully, we will get some good results from him going ahead,” Gopichand said.
But even as Lakshya has been making all the right noises, the more established players have had a rather quiet season. Except PV Sindhu’s historic BWF World Championship gold and the breakthrough performances by the men’s doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, Indian badminton had nothing much to take home in the year leading up to the Tokyo Olympics.
And while the former All England champion admitted the results were indeed below par, he singled out the hectic schedule as a key factor for the downward curve of the country’s top shuttlers. While Sindhu played 18 tournaments on the Tour through the year, an injury-hit Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth both took part in 16.
“I feel that they have played more than what was necessary. It’s important that we structure it. It is something that I have been mentioning as a concern,” Gopichand said. “Unfortunately, we don’t have a system like in some other countries where the coaches decide the entire programme. I think it’s time we moved to that direction, because Olympics after Olympics or year after year we are seeing the same trend going. So, it’s very important to take a look at it a lot more deeply.”
Gopichand added that while the focus of most players in the first half of next year will be on getting their Olympic qualifications done, the three months leading up to the Games will be crucial to take a step back and turn the attention on preparations to fight for medals in Tokyo.
“The three-month preparatory period before the Olympics is a big relief. That’s when the bulk of the preparations will happen. The last few years—whether it’s World Championships or Asian Games or the Olympics—we have always done well with our preparations. And I hope next year will also be the same.
“With good preparation and form, I think they all have a chance (for an Olympic medal), whether it is in singles or doubles. The way Satwik and Chirag have played, I definitely feel they too have a chance,” Gopichand said.