Chief National coach Pullela Gopichand was by the courtside during all the major finals starting with the 2016 Rio Olympics when PV Sindhu came agonisingly close to winning the gold medal but fell short for one reason or the other.
But the 2001 All England champion always emphasised that it wasn’t the end of the road and the 24-year-old had the ability to change the script one day for sure. And on Sunday, Gopichand finally had a smile on his face when Sindhu let a shuttle sail long to earn 13 championship points against Nozomi Okuhara and then wrap it up on the first attempt to become Indian badminton’s first world champion.
And the 45-year-old admitted that the way Sindhu won the title made the occasion all the more special.
“I think, for me, this victory is big. I think ‘World Champion’ is a big thing. To actually win it the way she has makes it even better. Doubly proud. It draws a lot of respect from people across the world and definitely for us as a country... we have seen bronze, we have seen silver and its great to see the gold,” he told Scroll.in from Basel.
Gopichand insisted that there was no special or different preparation for the final considering the epic final the two players were involved in two years ago.
“Nothing specific or very different. I think, in a way, Sindhu had to come of age. She had to kind of forget about the losses, the negatives and then once she is in good control and comfortable with conditions, this was bound to happen,” said Gopichand.
He added: “And you look at the performances, where halls are big and conditions are true and where it actually matters – Olympics, World Championships over the years, Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, I think everywhere she has done well. Maybe people outside can doubt but there is no doubt in my mind that she will perform. All she needs is a good amount of training and luckily we found a good window before this and that’s why we got the result.”
Sindhu got to train for about five weeks before the Indonesia Open Super 1000 tournament where she reached the final and then pulled out of the Thailand Open to concentrate on her preparation for the World Championship.
She dominated Pai Yu Po and Beiwen Zhang in the opening two rounds and the turnaround against Tai Tzu Ying in the quarter-finals would have given her lot of confidence going into the business end of the tournament.
“I think going into the final with the kind of matches and victories gives a lot of confidence. The thing to notice is also that the previous times she got to the finals, she had long hard matches. For this final, she was rested enough. She had a good break in between and that really helped. And all added to the fact that Okuhara and Ratchanok played a long match. It actually helps because these are courts which are physically very draining and to go into a match with an easier win really helped,” said Gopichand.
Gopichand insisted that he wouldn’t have been depressed even if the result of the final would have been any different saying his coaching philosophy has always been about giving one’s best and then accepting the results before working hard for the next goal.
“I always felt that you need to push till the time you need to push. You need to aspire for more but once you get the result I think its time to celebrate whatever it is and start looking forward to the next one. I think this is a great victory, not only for Sindhu but for all of us who worked hard. We had won bronzes and the silvers but the question mark was when is the gold coming. For that reason at least, for that box to be ticked... this gold was important,” he added.
The Dronachaya Awardee, however, insisted that the path ahead to Tokyo Olympics won’t be easy as the other nations would specifically look to beat Sindhu as she would go into the Games as one of the favourites.
“Last time we went to the Olympics as the underdog,” said Gopichand. “Nobody really bothered about us so much so it was easier to prepare. The surprise element was there. But this time you are going to be the most marked person on the circuit and people are going to spend this year training to beat you knowing that you won the biggest tournament the year preceding to the Olympics.
“I think it’s going to be a tough year, a tough Tokyo Olympics and we need to put our head down and ensure that we work hard and plan even better,” he said.