Kidambi Srikanth's stunning victory over five-time world champion and home favourite Lin Dan in the China Open Super Series on Sunday was the perfect birthday gift for coach Pullela Gopichand. The former All-England champion said in an interview to NDTV that he always believed Indian men had the capability to win big badminton events around the world.
Q Pullela Gopichand got his 41st birthday gift all gift-wrapped from China on Sunday with Srikanth winning the China Open. Many congratulations..this was something you were waiting for a long time?
Pullela Gopichand: It was a fantastic birthday gift. I had been expecting the men to win big events. They had the capabilities and I had my belief in them. This was a very pleasant surprise.
Q Srikanth really kept his nerves against a phenomenal opponent, didn't he?
Gopichand: Yes, he has burnt his fingers earlier. He lost a few matches being emotional, trying to wrap up quickly. He was leading 19-12 in the India Open and from there, he lost. But he has learnt his lessons. Very creditable performance. He was smart, he was brave. In the end, when it mattered, he took his chances, he was very clever. (Also read: Saina says will cherish China Open win for the rest of her life)
Q What did you tell him before and after the match?
Gopichand: I told him to do simple things well. It was his first big final. To play in a Super Series, in China itself is big. To add Lin Dan to that equation is something. All of us, as part of the gallery, had been watching him match after match, tournament after tournament, winning. Everybody looks at the statistics and says he is going into the final and he is a winner. Srikanth knows that too. So I said, go into the match, do all the simple things and if you get a chance, try and beat him. After the match, he was very happy, I was very happy, they were great moments. (Also read: Saina, Srikanth to lead Indian challenge in Hong Kong)
Q Having the Indian anthem play twice in China was a very proud moment?
Gopichand: It was phenomenal. I don't know how many will understand the height of this achievement. Fact is, for any country, getting the national anthem played twice on the final day is phenomenal. And for India, doing it in China, in men's and women's singles is really phenomenal. (Also read: Never thought I could beat Lin Dan, says Srikanth)
Q This is going to do a lot of things to others as well, not just Srikanth?
Gopichand: Definitely yes, there are a lot of young players who have done well and are looking to do well. Each bit of this serves as inspiration, strengthens their belief that they can win at the highest level in the world. Definitely Srikanth will be confident, but also Parupalli Kashyap, Gurusaidutt, HS Pranoy, Ajay Jayaram, Sourabh Verma and there are many others.
Q For Saina, this is the first big title after she shifted to Bangalore?
Gopichand: It was a fantastic win. Really good that she has pulled off a fantastic win at such a big tournament. I just hope she continues from this and goes ahead and wins many more in the future.
Q So finally, you are happy that not just girls but also boys are making it to the big league?
Gopichand: I am very happy. Everytime I had this question asked, why aren't the men winning and I would say, they are coming, they are coming. We should now look at the performances, GPs, Commonwealth medals for Kashyap, Guru and Srikanth getting the big one. He is going to play next in Hong Kong. Hopefully, he does well and he has a place at the year-end Super Series event. Good for him to play the best players in the world in tough conditions. This puts him in another league. Gives his confidence a big boost. He is 21. Many more years to go. All these count as big experiences going forward.