HYDERABAD: There was something different in the air as the prodigal trainees of Pullela Gopichand Academy returned to the ‘City of Pearls’ to begin a new chapter in Indian badminton. Arguably, for the first time, male shuttlers have stolen the limelight from their illustrious female counterparts — Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu.
This thanks to some exhilarating performances by B Sai Praneeth (Singapore Open Superseries, Thailand Open Grand Prix Gold champion), HS Prannoy and most recently Kidambi Srikanth (3 consecutive Superseries finals). The icing on the cake for Srikanth was the triumph at the Australian Open Superseries, where he beat Olympic and world champion Chen Long.
The 24-year-old has now set his sights on something that has never been done by an Indian — gold at the World Championship. “The aim is always to win. Different tournaments have different levels of difficulties. Come August, it’ll be the World Championship on my radar,” Srikanth said.
Gopichand lavished praise on his wards. “I think men have the capability to surpass achievements of Sindhu and Saina, in terms of the way they’re feared by opponents all over the world,” the national coach said.
Prannoy cautioned that more consistency is needed, and that the presence of at least three Indian men in the top 10 could soon be possible. He received Rs 2 lakh while Srikanth was awarded Rs 6 lakh, under the ‘Quest for Excellence’ initiative between IDBI Federal Life insurance and Gopichand’s academy.