In an unexpected move on Monday, Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal decided to part ways with coach Vimal Kumar and rejoin former coach Pullela Gopichand at his academy in Hyderabad.

It was only three years ago that the shuttler had parted ways with Gopichand after the 2014 World Championships. Back then in Copenhagen, Nehwal was beaten by China’s Li Xuerui in straight games in the quarter-finals. She immediately joined Vimal Kumar and achieved phenomenal success while training under him in Bengaluru.

Saina’s rise to the top under Kumar’s guidance

  • Under Kumar, Nehwal became world No 1 in April 2015. It was only the second time that an Indian had achieved the top ranking after Prakash Padukone achieved the feat during his heyday.  
  • It was also under Kumar in 2015 that Nehwal bagged her first World Championship medal, a silver in 2015 in Jakarta where she lost in the final to Carolina Marin in straight games 16-21, 19-21. Two years later, at the recently concluded 2017 World Badminton Championships in Glasgow, she secured a bronze to complete a stirring comeback after injury laid her low in the period after the 2016 Rio Olympics.  

A plethora of titles

  • The 2012 Olympic bronze medallist won five titles from September 2014 to September 2017 under Kumar. Starting with the China Open in 2014, she went on to win the India Open 2015, Australian Open 2016, Syed Modi International 2015 and the Malaysia Masters in 2017. She ended up as runners-up at the All England Open in 2015 and the China Open 2015.  
  • Nehwal also lost in the semi-finals of the Swiss Open in 2016 and India Open 2016 while bowing out in the semi-finals in the 2015 and the 2016 editions of the Malaysian Open. The Asia Championship in 2016 and the Thailand Open in 2017 also saw her secure a semi-final finish.  

No doubt, it has been a brilliant run for Saina Nehwal under Kumar. Now as she moves to Hyderabad to work under Pullela Gopichand’s guidance, here’s hoping she only gets better.