New Delhi: World number one shuttler Lee Chong Wei's coach Rashid Sidek on Friday heaped praise on Saina Nehwal, saying the Indian ace is "mentally" very strong and can become the undisputed queen of world badminton.
"Saina is now world number two (sic three). She is very good. She is improving every year. She is mentally very strong and can beat any Chinese player. She gets pumped up by the prospect of playing a Chinese player. So she has been able to win super series titles and can be a champion," said Sidek, who will be coaching the Delhi Smashers in the inaugural edition of the Indian Badminton League (IBL).
The former world number one, who became the first Malaysian singles player to win a medal in the Olympics when he clinched the bronze at 1996 Atlanta Games, believes Indian shuttlers need to be more focused and put in that "extra" hard work which differentiates a player from a champion.
"They are many young players coming up like P Kashyap, Srikanth, Gurusaidutt, Sai Praneeth, H S Prannoy, P Sindhu. They have talent and skills, they have everything in them to win Super Series titles and dominate world badminton," the coach said during an interaction with reporters here.
"But they have to train harder, be more focussed and determined. We can get a champion everywhere but they have to do something extra because champion is one. It is important to have the same intensity during training. If you are training for two hours, you have to be focused on skills and consistency because you are playing at the highest level.
"One thing that they are missing is mental aspect. Sometimes just by looking at the draw, one gets mentally down. So they have to be mentally strong," added Sidek, who won the Malaysian Open thrice from 1990 to 1992.
The two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist said next month's World Championship would be the best chance for Lee Chong Wei to win the coveted title.
"It is a good chance for him to win the title. Lin Dan will be playing but he has not been playing for some time and won't be at his peak form. But then we are playing in China, so let's see," he said.
Sidek said it is a very challenging job to coach Lee Chong Wei and help him retain the world number one ranking as he always has to win the title.
"As a coach we are under pressure to ensure he stays at number one. Every time he comes out and play, even if he reaches the final, it is not good enough. He has to become champion. So we focus on his training. It is important sometimes to give more encouragement because a player's game goes up and down. It is very difficult," he said.
Sidek said it would be difficult to coach Delhi Smashers in the IBL but he is looking forward to the challenge.
"It is very challenging. I have to chose foreign players and rest would be local. There will be very less time to train them as they would be coming from World Championship. I will discuss with other two coaches and work along with the Indian coaches. Of course, I want to choose Lee Chong Wei as he is in top form now," said Sidek, who coached Nusa Mahsuri, a badminton club from 1996 to 2002.
"I was surprised when I was offered this job. This is my opportunity to help them win the tournament. I also want to promote badminton in India as the sports is coming up in the country," said Sidek, who has signed a one-year contract with Delhi Smashers.
Talking about the change in format, Sidek said: "Now a days badminton is very different from my days. The game has become very fast and power game. Today you can't make any silly mistake. Now players cannot gamble. This scoring system is interesting because it makes players more focussed. You just cannot make mistake," he said.
Asked about the implementation of an instant review system in badminton, Sidek said it is good for the sport.
"I think BWF (Badminton World Federation) want to follow tennis. It is for fair game. Sometimes most of the players quarrel over line calls. Sometimes it totally affect the game. It is interesting and would be good for badminton."