In one of the most significant off the court developments, Saina Nehwal has returned to Gopi Chand immediately after the World Championships in Glasgow recently. The 27-year old former World No.1’s decision to leave Vimal Kumar and re join Gopi has raised a few eyebrows.
One is tempted to know the reasons as to why Saina decided to return to Gopi Chand especially in the light of the fact that she had tasted her maximum success under Vimal Kumar whom she joined in 2014. For under Vimal, Saina won a World Championships silver, and was a All England runner up—her best feats at the world level so far. .
The biggest factor which prompted Saina to return to Gopi was the advent of Indonesian coach Handoyo into the scene. Mulyo Handoyo, one of the best coaches of the world has trained the likes of former Olympic and world champion Taufik Hidayat, joined the Gopi Chand Academy in March. Ever since he joined the performance of the Indian shuttlers has improved drastically with Srikanth and Sai Praneeth winning the Indonesian, Australian and Singapore Super Series respectively.
“I think Mulayawo joining the Gopi Chand Academy in March was the catalyst which made Saina almost determined to re join Gopi Chand. There’s no doubting Mulayawo’s pedigree and competence and Saina would have been very interested in training with him. The sterling show of the Indian shuttlers under him only made her more and more determined to join the Gopi Chand Academy,” said a former player who trains at the Gopi Chand Academy.
The fact that Mulayawo joined the Indian shuttlers also helped Saina’s case. For she would end up interacting with the Indonesian more than Gopi Chand on a day to day basis. ‘The fact that Saina would have to deal more with Mulayawo on a daily basis and less with Gopi as the latter had other administrative matters to look into also was a major factor which made Saina decided to return to the Gopi Chand Academy,” felt the former player.
Also, the fact that Sania was a Hyderabadi and wanted to return to her home city was also a contributing factor. “In Bangalore she was leading a loner’s life with most of her time spent at the Prakash Padukone Academy where she trained under Vimal Kumar. There was nothing else for her. But Hyderabad was the city where she grew up and that most of her friends were there also played a major role in shifting back to the Gopi Chand Academy,” said a regular at the Gopi Chand Academy.
According to a source in the BAI, Saina had been having some sort of small problems with Vimal of late. “She (Saina) was having small problems with Vimal Kumar of late. Minor issues like time of practice, and what sort of training stuff like that. Mind you, VImal is the sort of person who calls a spade a spade. He is not the one who is taken in by the reputation of a player and of late had minor differences with Saina. This was also a reason as to why Saina decided to leave Bangalore,” said a Badminton Association of India (BAI) official.
On her part, Saina herself admitted that she was thinking about moving back to Hyderabad. “For a while I’ve been thinking about moving my training base back to the Gopichand academy and I had a discussion about this with Gopi sir, and I am really thankful to him for agreeing to help me again. At this stage in my career, I think he can help me achieve my goals,” Saina said “I m very happy to b back home and train in Hyderabad,” the 27-year-old added.
She also thanked Vimal Kumar profusely. “I’m also very thankful to Vimal sir for helping me for the last three years. He helped me reach World No.1 in the rankings and also helped me win two world championships medals silver in 2015 and bronze in 2017 along with many superseries titles,” Saina said.