Pullela Gopichand has expressed his happiness at the performance of the Indian shuttlers and termed Kidambi Srikanth's feat of winning four Super Series titles as "phenomenal". The Indian national coach has also stated that Saina Nehwal needs to be fitter to win match after match in big tournaments.
While 2016 was touted as a landmark year for Indian badminton, 2017 has managed to raise the bar to a whole new level. While PV Sindhu proved that her exploits at the Rio Olympics were no fluke, Kidambi Srikanth has been in magnificent form of late and not only has he found a place in the elite club by winning four Superseries events in a year but has also risen to the World No. 2 position, which makes him the fourth Indian after Prakash Padukone, Saina Nehwal, and PV Sindhu to reach that level.
"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," Gopichand said, reported PTI.
"In the big events - World Championships or Super Series events, we have done well. Also, varied people have done well. Last year was, maybe, (P V) Sindhu's year. This year men's singles
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. The Guntur shuttler also finished runner-up to compatriot B Sai Praneeth in the Singapore SS and was a losing quarter-finalist in the World Championships.
"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. 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.
"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.
Three years ago, Saina had moved to Bengaluru to coach under the tutelage of Vimal Kumar at the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy following her quarterfinal loss in the 2014 World Championship in Copenhagen, where her compatriot PV Sindhu had bagged her second bronze medal in the competition. She recently returned to Pullela Gopichand Academy stating that she was contemplating moving back to her home city for quite some time.
"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.