Hyderabad: Saina Nehwal said it was not an easy decision to move away from long-time coach Pullela Gopichand but added that she was glad to win the China Open and prove how hard her new coach Vimal Kumar was working with her. The ace Indian shuttler said as a player, she had to be selfish and think about her game, which is why she decided to try a new coach after 10 years.
In a dramatic move, Saina had dumped Gopichand, weeks before the Asian Games. The change of coaches paid immediate dividends as Saina went on to win the team bronze at the Asian Games, reached the quarter-finals of the Denmark Open before finally winning the China Open, breaking into the top five.
“Many people said it was a risk, moving away from a long-time coach. Even I thought I was taking a risk. But I had to take that chance – for the last one and a half years, I somehow felt I was lacking struggling against the top three players in the world. I was feeling stuck against them. So I spoke to Gopi sir and told him there was something else required in my game. But with so many players in the academy, I realised it was not easy for him and I understood his problem. That’s why I said we need more coaches. Obviously, it’s not easy to shift from someone you have been training for so many years”
Saina said she had to think for herself and had no regrets being “selfish”, leaving behind an academy that had given her fame and several other world titles. She said her goal this year was to break into the top five and she did just that. With her China Open triumph, the Hyderabad girl moved to number four from world number nine.
Besides seeking more success on the tour, Saina said she is focused on maintaining fitness in the run up to the 2016 Olympics.
“It is very important to stay fit now as the Olympics are coming nearer. It will be more about remaining fit and playing the best against the top three Chinese players in the world. I will try to beat them as many times as possible or try to give them a very tough fight which is very important,” she said. She said she would work hard to achieve the number one position, but no time-frame can be put to it.”
Saina also credited fellow-Indian shuttler Kidambi Srikanth, who won the men’s title in China by defeating the legendary Lin Dan but said his victory did not overshadow her own achievement.
“Two Indians winning in China is special. It was a great achievement for Srikanth to beat a player of Lin Dan’s class but I wouldn’t say he overshadowed me. I always get all the attention I need,” said Saina who celebrated her triumph by eating a vanilla ice-cream.