Chief national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand has set his eyes on ending the 18-year-old wait for an Indian to become an All England champion next year after P V Sindhu clinched the season-ending World Tour Finals title in Guangzhou on Sunday.
Gopichand was the last Indian to win the All England Championship in 2001, achieving the coveted feat after 21 years of Prakash Padukone’s 1980 title.
Asked about the targets, Gopichand said: “For us the 2020 would be a big one, and then 2022, so basically the Commonwealth, Asian Games and the Olympics are the big event but having said that the All England will be the target next year.
“It has been quite a while since we have won the All England Championship. It will be almost 20 years since Prakash sir won and then I won the Championship so I hope this time it doesn’t take so long.”
Sindhu on Sunday became the first Indian to clinch the World Tour Finals, capping a successful season where she won silver medals at the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, World Championship and finished runners-up at India Open and Thailand Open.
“I think it is a fantastic tournament,” said Gopichand. “The way she has played, she has beaten players of quality. To beat (Akane) Yamaguchi, (Nozomi) Okuhara, Ratchanok (Inthanon) in the same tournament is special. She finishes the year on a high. She has won medals in the major events and that was the target this year,” he said.
“It is great to end the year like this but more important is to start the next year with a similar win.”
Gopichand was also impressed with the performance of Sameer Verma, who not only qualified for the season-ending tournament after defending his title at Syed Modi but also came within touching distance of making it to the summit clash.
“I am also impressed with how Sameer played the entire tournament. To do well to qualify and getting into the semifinals, both are phenomenal and he was so close to get to the finals,” he said of Sameer, who had squandered a match point to go down fighting against Shi Yuqi of China in the semifinals.
“Overall a good tournament for him, so lot of positive to take back. Next is a a fresh year and good ending what would be a good beginning for next year.”
“We all deserve some rest. We also have the year ending league, which is a shorter format but it going to be intense and fun,” he added.