How was it participating the recent Senior National Championship after the China and Japan Opens?
The China and Japan Opens were great tournaments for me. In the senior nationals, I had a problem in my right knee and had to play with a knee brace. In the third game we were eleven-all but constant pain in my knee affected my game. I couldn’t defend my title and the 2008 winner Sayali Gokhale clinched the crown.
But don’t you feel that you struggled a bit in the semifinal as well?
I came from behind to beat Arundhati Pantawane 8-21, 21-18, 21-13. I wasn’t 100 percent. I couldn’t bend because of a painful knee. But I am not making excuses. I had to face tough competition in the senior national. In the semis, I had too many negative thoughts initially. I didn’t get my strokes right, but then I found my rhythm. I probably wanted to play safe, so couldn’t exert enough pressure.
What did you feel about the level of competition in the senior nationals after playing two big international tournaments?
The competition was good. In China and Japan, I played against the world’s top players. These international tournaments cannot be compared with the senior nationals.
Don’t you feel the bar needs to be raised in the national senior championship for the level of Indian badminton to improve? Unfortunately, players prefer to play abroad.
I can talk only for myself. I have no problem playing in the nationals. This year I was the runner-up. Last year I won the title. I play the nationals even though I participate in international tournaments.
What would you say went wrong in the Japan Open Super Series?
I did my best there but lost in the second round 21-10, 12-21, 18-21 to the world number 11, South Korea’s Yeon Ju Bae. The match was quite close. In the first round I had demolished a better opponent. It was a close contest in the second game with the score tied at 10-all. But Bae held firm. In the third game I made a strong comeback. Bae got off to a flier with a 12-4 scoreline. But I fought hard to push the score to 18-20. It was the first time I was playing against Bae, so that may have been one reason. The next time I face her, it might be another story.
Now coming to your historic win against the London Olympic gold medalist Li Xuerui, how did you plan going into that match?
I just kept saying to myself that I have to be at my best come what may. She is the wolrd’s top player. So I was a bit nervous but wanted to give my 100 percent. It wasn’t as though was overawed by her reputation as big player.
Your coach Pullela Gopichand has said it was a big win. How did you take the win against a world class badminton player?
I was very happy. I really felt I could give my best. Yes, Gopi Sir was also very happy after this win. My parents and friends were very excited to find me snatching a game from a world class player. I was moving well on the court. I kept on attacking against Li. I won relatively comfortably 21-19, 9-21, 21-16. But there was a lot drift and I found it very difficult to control the shuttle.
But in the semifinal you couldn’t repeat the same magic.
In the semis too I had a very strong opponent in fourth seeded Chinese Yanijao Jiang. These were back to back matches against world class opponents. I lost 10-21, 21-14, 19-21 in the semifinal. But I was fearless through the match. After losing in the first game, I bounced back in the second. It was 19-all in the third game but I couldn’t finish it off in my favour. I hit the bird into the net twice and lost the match, which could have gone either way. This was my second defeat by the same margin against the same opponent.
Do you feel you have been in top form over the last year?
Yes. But I need to work harder and perform more consistently in the coming tournaments.
Saina Nehwal’s Olympic medal must have inspired you. How much impact did it leave?
It was a great thing to happen for Indian badminton. I was really very happy to see an Indian girl getting an Olympic medal. This medal is great encouragement for all the junior players.
So after this medal-winning performance from Saina, can we expect an Olympic medal from Sindhu in the Rio Olympics in 2016?
Yes, hopefully. I will try my level best to fulfill this dream.
What kind of impact did Saina’s bronze have on the all the other badminton players in the academy?
Now everyone at the academy is enthused. They are trying to give their best. They are really motivated and are trying hard to excel.