“The funny part is, even after playing so many times in the Thomas Cup, I could not win a medal. Today, thanks to our ladies’ team, I have a medal from the Uber Cup. Perhaps, that’s the best part of being a coach,” said a smiling P. Gopi Chand reflecting on the gains from the past week.
Visibly pleased with the first-ever bronze medal in the Uber Cup, Gopi said, “I think our players played very well. To expect Saina Nehwal, P.V. Sindhu, Jwala and Ashwini Ponnappa to pull off their matches against Hong Kong, Thailand, Indonesia and Japan would have been unfair. I am proud of my team for the way they played.”
On India’s over-reliance on three singles in the Thomas Cup, Gopi said, “Again, we had no other go. K. Srikanth, Kashyap and Gurusaidutt had to come good on the same day against players of equal strength. As a player, you know it is not going to happen every day. With a bit of luck, we could have beaten Korea, against whom we won two singles. So, it was pretty good.”
Gopi also chose to bring into focus the way Thomas Cup and Uber Cup is seen by India. “It has never been on our radar. Historically, too, we have not done well in this event. So, to do well at home has given many positives.
“With the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games to follow, I am sure the team will gain from these performances.”
Gopi did lament the absence of strong pairs among men and a third singles player and doubles in women.
“There are so many factors why we don’t get good doubles players. Our players try to specialise in doubles too late in their careers. Most of our players play singles and doubles till they are 19-20 years old. Thereafter, they decide to focus on doubles, but by then, it is already too late to specialise.”
Asked if he had a system of developing doubles pairs, Gopi said, “Of course I have, but I don’t control all the factors.
“A player faces pressure from his parents, coach, employers etc.
“As a result, even if I choose a player to train only for doubles, he or she can suddenly decide to give up for some reason or the other. Then, where do we go?
“You allow me to work on a doubles pair for five years and then I can answer the question.”