“For the first time, the Chinese may be apprehensive about the Indian players — not just in the women's singles due to Saina Nehwal's dream run in world badminton but also in other categories like the mixed doubles and women's doubles,” said Chetan Anand, World No 15, in a chat with The Hindu before the Indian team left for the World championship in Paris.
And World No. 2 Saina Nehwal also said that the preparations had never been so intense as they were this time for the World championship. “I am no longer scared of the Chinese players. However, I am a bit apprehensive about playing against unknown rivals,” she said.
“I worked a lot with Gopi Sir (chief national coach Pullela Gopi Chand) on some areas of my game like defence, net play and backhand. I don't want to sound over-confident, but yes I am in the best frame of mind,” said the 20-year-old Saina. “Obviously I am tired after all the felicitations following my victories, and also the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award. I could not get the rest I wanted,” she said.
Chetan, who has just recovered from a knee injury and warmed up for the World meet with a title-win in the Bareilly all-India tournament last week, hopes that the pain will not hamper him. For someone who has been a regular in a World championship since 2001, he said that he was not keen to talk about expectations.
Best medal hope
“Saina is our best medal hope given the form she is in. And for the first time many rivals will be scared of the Indians because even the mixed doubles pair of V. Diju and Jwala Gutta (ranked in the top 10 of the world) are capable of pulling off an upset, just as the men's doubles pair of Sanave and Rupesh,” said Chetan.
Gopi Chand said that this was the best chance for India to win a medal in a World championship. The players had the potential and it was only a question of how well and quickly they adapted to the playing conditions, he said.
The team: Men: Chetan Anand, Rupesh Kumar, Sanave Thomas, P. Kashyap and V. Diju.
Women: Saina Nehwal, Aditi Mutatkar, Jwala Gutta, Aswani Ponappa.
Chief coach: Pullela Gopi Chand. Assistant coach: Vijaydeep Singh.