Gopi was seen at his best as he came up with his trademark jump smashes and some delectable backhand flicks
It was a ‘guru dakshina’ with a difference! Dronacharya and former All England champion Pullela Gopi Chand gave glimpses of his vintage days when he got the better of London Olympics bronze medallist and his most famous trainee Saina Nehwal in an exhibition singles match at the Film Nagar Cultural Centre here on Saturday.
The event organised, along with mixed doubles contest – featuring Parupalli Kashyap and P.V. Sindhu v/s Gopi Chand and Saina Nehwal – was perhaps a fitting tribute the organisers, led by FNCC sports committee chairman and APBA vice-president V. Chamundeswarnath, could have paid to two truly outstanding champions.
It also presented a chance for all those who have not seen Gopi at his best as he came up with his trademark jump smashes and some delectable backhand flicks. A smiling Saina was often forced to acknowledge the ‘master’ when the latter held the centre-stage with his agility and skills even at the age of 39.
There were quite a few occasions when Gopi did set up some easy winners with an open forecourt for his ‘trainee’ because as the game progressed his ageing body got the better of him. But that he emerged a 15-14 winner in a close encounter could be another ‘special’ moment where he could have re-assessed Saina’s game in real match situation.
When Kashyap and Sindhu clinched the duel against Gopi and Saina 22-20, it was perhaps symbolic of the young brigade’s readiness to take a cue from the indefatigable ‘guru’. The net dribbles featuring Kashyap and Gopi and the half-smashes of Saina to counter the tall Sindhu were a treat to watch.
In the final singles exhibition match, Kashyap defeated Sindhu 15-10 in another interesting clash. The fab four of Indian badminton and Hyderabad’s pride were also rewarded with a prize money of Rs.2 lakh by the sponsor Kesoram Cements.