Pullela Gopichand
Pullela Gopichand

Kolkata: Badminton national coach Pullela Gopichand is not concerned about P.V. Sindhu's poor run of form since she won the 2019 BWF World Championships. But he admits that these are "tough" times for the sport in the Olympic year with Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth struggling to secure automatic qualification spots.

Gopichand also stressed the need to work on opponents being able to read "certain strokes and game patterns" of Indian shuttlers ahead of Tokyo 2020.

"Sindhu has struggled a bit. But she is someone who has consistently done well in the highest tournaments and I do believe that going into the Olympic year, knowing well these are the areas to be worked on, I am sure we will be able to sort it out," Gopichand told IANS on the sidelines of the launch of the book 'Dreams of a Billion: India and the Olympic Games' at the TATA Steel Literary Meet.

With Sindhu placed sixth in the qualification rankings, Saina who is ranked 22nd will need to be placed within the top 16 by the end of the qualification period which comes in April to be assured of a place in the Indian contingent that goes to Tokyo.

The 26th ranked Srikanth finds himself in even more choppy waters and will need to get into the top 16 to ensure that he gets a spot in Tokyo alongwith Sai Praneeth who is ranked 11th.

"It's tough times. There are about 7-8 tournaments left for the end of the qualifications and they will need to really play well to get there. I think especially for Srikanth it's an uphill task," Gopichand said.

"The last two tournaments have not gone well. Having said that, I am hopeful they will buck up and give some good performances.

"Saina's one or two good performances will get her a berth (in the Olympics) and she has beaten players like An Se-young in the Malaysian Open. I do hope that she comes strongly in coming tournaments."

In a book, Gopichand had revealed how upset he was when Saina decided to join Prakash Padukone's academy. Heaping praise on India's first badminton superstar, Gopichand, a former All England Champion, said: "She has come strongly from Rio 2016 setback. 2017 she had a medal at the World Championships. 2018 she had the Commonwealth gold and a medal at the Asian Games.

"She has done well overall and she has served the country for a very long period of time. If you look at her performances from 2009 till 2019 she was consistently in the top 10 of the world always. She has contributed immensely."

On the areas the Indian contingent needs to work on, he said: "Some of it might be specifics which I would not want to divulge. In the last few tournaments, we have seen certain mistakes which have crept in. Players being able to read certain strokes and game patterns so that's what we need to change."

Gopichand also said all Indian players have the ability to shine in Tokyo as it takes two good matches to turn a corner going by the Olympics format.

"The format of Olympics is such that every player who goes in with good preparation has a chance. At the end of the day, two good matches can bring you into the medal rounds. I do believe all our players have the ability to do that. I am waiting for qualification to get over, hopefully we will have a good number going," he concluded.

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