By Devadyuti Das, TNN
New Delhi: P Gayatri has badminton in her genes. Daughter of chief national coach and former All-England badminton champion Pullela Gopichand and former India champ PVV Lakshmi, Gayatri is a ‘chip off the old block’ in every sense.
Just 12 years of age, the shy and demure Gayatri is already leading the way in the Under-13 girls category. She won the U-13 national doubles title last year and is the No. 1 seed in her age-group in both singles and doubles at the PNB Metlife All India sub junior ranking badminton tournament currently on at the Thyagraj Stadium in the Capital.
Gayatri is doing double duty in this tournament – competing in the U-13 as well as the U-15 categories. After beating a qualifier in the U-13 class on Thursday morning, she defeated UP’s Amolika Singh in the U-15 match later in the day to move into second round with ease.
A young girl of few words, Gayatri has been training at her father’s academy in Hyderabad since the age of six. “Over the last few years, my brother has also started training there, so it’s like a family exercise,” Gayatri told TOI on Thursday.
Her father Gopichand believes in pushing the boundaries. The young shuttler, who attends Glendales school in Hyderabad, begins her day before 4 in the morning.
“I train from 4.15am to 7, 9 to 11 l am and then again from 3 to 5pm in the t evening after returning from school,” she said. Gayatri’s mother Lakshmi said Gopi is not her only coach at the moment. “She trains with her father as well other academy coaches like Satya, Vishnu, Rajendra and Anil. There is no special treatment for her, she trains like any other academy trainee,” Lakshmi said.
Gopi believes that testing her skills against seniors will hold her in good stead for the future. She took part in a senior ranking event in Bangalore a couple of months back on her father’s suggestion.
“It was quite an enjoyable experience. Unlike other tournaments, I was able to play much more freely as there wasn’t any expectation from me. I won the first round and lost to a fellow Gopichand Academy shuttler, Kanika. She went on to reach the quarterfinals but I managed to push her to three games in the second round match,” Gayatri said with a smile.
When asked who her badminton heroes at the moment are, Gayatri, who believes the cross court drop is her best shot, said: “Lin Dan, Chen Long and yes, Ratchanok (Intanon). I just love watching their smashes.”