Amid reports that Indonesian coach Mulyo Handoyo not returning to continue his role in Indian national set-up, star shuttler PV Sindhu refused to comment on his likely departure but spoke highly of his impact on the team.

“He did very well in the last one year he has worked with us for sure, we can see the results but I have nothing to say about whether he will come back or not,” said Sindhu during a press conference in Delhi ahead of her team, Chennai Smashers’ clash against Mumbai Rockets in the Premier Badminton League on Wednesday.

Handoyo, who is widely credited for implementing a training regime that has sparked a fine run of form for India’s singles stars, is reported to be not returning to reprise his role in 2018 – a report that’s been denied by Badminton Association of India. “As far as we know, Handoyo has gone home for his Christmas vacation and is expected to return to India after that,” said BAI secretary and official spokesperson Anup Narang.

“No information to the contrary as been received by us,” he added.

One of the areas that Handoyo helped Indian shuttlers develop is their fitness and the ability to last longer in matches – attributes that saw Sindhu play two marathon finals in the past year. The matches against Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara at the Worlds in Glasgow and Akane Yamaguchi at the Dubai Superseries Finals saw Sindhu pushed to her limit physically.

“There’s a lot still left for me to learn,” said Sindhu. “The year has been up and down, with good wins and tough defeats. The next season, the focus will be to improve. It’s just the start for me, there’s a long way to go. Not just physically, I need to remain mentally fit. It’s a process and I have to learn every day.

How does she cope up with the tough defeats in the finals? There have been not one, but two in this year, and three if you include the Rio Olympics gold medal match as well.

“Yes I found it tough, I was very upset after the World Championship final. It was so close and both of us wanted to win it badly, and that was just not my day. And then the same thing happened in Dubai as well. It felt bad, as I was reminded about that Okuhara defeat once again. But it’s all about coming back from such defeats. I have to take positives from these matches and look where else I can improve, that’s how I can bounce back. But, overall, it’s been a very good year.”

Part of the reason for these two finals in question turning out to be so memorable was the long rallies that we witnessed. Sindhu agrees that it’s a trend that is clearly emerging in the game.

“Yeah, the rallies are definitely getting longer. The world championship final was one of the longest ever played. The women’s circuit has seen many players do really well and play at the highest level. And that automatically means all of us have to be prepared for long matches and long rallies,” said Sindhu.

The 22-year-old was happy with her performances of the year and is now looking to defend the PBL title with the Chennai Smashers. With two new teams, and more star players in the fray, she knows it’s not going to be an easy task.

“Tai Tzu Ying is there, Srikanth had a great year and, and me too,” Sindhu said with a grin. “In PBL, each team is strong on paper and that’s where the trump matches play a crucial role. And the format too – it’s just 15 points, so anyone can win any match. Each point is crucial. Overall, the best players are coming to PBL, and with eight teams in the mix, it’s going to tough for everyone.”

Bad timing of new service law

Sindhu also said that the new experimental service law that will come into effect from March next year could have come at a better time. According to the new rule, the entire shuttle can be no higher than 1.15 metres from the surface of the court at the instant of being hit by the server’s racquet. The rule will come into effect from the All England Open.

“From my side, it’s just that it could have come at a better time, a different tournament instead of the All England Championships, because it is a very prestigious tournament for everybody,” Sindhu said. “As far as my service goes, I am trying but it should not be much of problem. We just need to practice it out,” she added.

With inputs from PTI