New Delhi: Seeing his protege Saina Nehwal departing early from India Open, national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand was expectedly sad but that feeling was more or less neutralised when he witnessed the gritty performances of young players such as PV Sindhu.
"We have had a whole lot of players emerging from this tournament. I am a little disappointed with Saina losing early but looking at the entire lot, it is very encouraging. I am very happy," Gopichand told in an interview.
"HS Prannoy, Anand Pawar, PV Sindhu doing well shows that we have a lot of depth and a lot of talent coming into the senior rank," he added.
India Open witnessed the likes of Sindhu, Prannoy and Pawar doing well against some of the top-ranked players from the world here at the Siri Fort Sports Complex. Talking about Sindhu's impressive show in the competition, where she lost to World No. 6 Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand in the semi-finals, Gopichand said the 17-year-old will take a lot of positives from here.
"[Her performance has been] very, very good. How she has performed here has been very encouraging... It's good to see. And also at the Asia badminton championship [last week in Taipei] before this. She will take some more time but each of these victories will help her build confidence," said Gopichand.
Prannoy had caused one of the biggest upsets of the tournament by beating former world No. 1 Taufik Hidayat in straight games to enter the quarter-finals of the men's singles event before he lost to current world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia.
Gopichand felt that the 20-year-old Prannoy is a hope for the future. "This year he had some good victories. Here also he had good victories. He looks solid. In the [quarter-final] match against Lee Chong Wei also, he looked very good, which is a good sign. He is definitely a hope for the future and I expect him to do well."
Gopichand, however, refused to single out any player who could be the best prospect for the future. "I have got so many young players playing with me, so it will be unfair on my part to pick one. But I do believe that all of my players have a lot of potential," he insisted.
Asked if pressure of performing in front of the home crowd was the reason behind Saina and men's star Parupalli Kashyap losing early in the tournament, the coach said "possibly."
He, however, went on to say, "But if you see both of their matches, they had lost very close matches and it is not that they didn't play well. Kashyap played well and dominated for most part of the match before he lost [to Chong Wei]. For Saina it was a bad patch. Overall, I think they played well.
"Saina and Kashyap are established names. They have performed well in the past and I am sure they would do well in the future also," he added.
On the wrong line call that resulted in Saina losing her focus while she was serving for the match in the third game of the lost second-round match, Gopichand preferred to play down the issue.
"For past many years we have lost matches because of bad line calls. It is always difficult to get the right decisions. Sometimes decisions are in your favour and sometimes they are against you, and when they are against you, it is bad luck," Gopichand said.
Even as the Indians did well in the singles with as many as five advancing to quarter-finals in the men's singles category itself, they faltered as far as doubles were concerned.
None of the pairs in the men's, women's or mixed doubles event could go beyond second round of the event and Gopichand said some work needed to be done.
"There is work to be done definitely on the entire range of players. We have already made a few changes and I have also proposed a few more, so that we are able to do well," he said.
Asked what Saina, who is currently world No. 2, needs to do to achieve the number one ranking, Gopichand said, "She also has a lot of points to defend in the coming months. It is going to be a tough task.
"But she is someone who knows what to do and just needs to do the basics right, focus on training correctly and ensuring that she rests properly."
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