[h=1]‘The real deal’[/h]
Brothers Shrikanth and Nandagopal win in Thailand and Maldives respectively; earn praise from Gopi
K Nandagopal’s career was rising steadily on the badminton circuit. His coaches in Guntur, Andhra Pradesh, and at the Pullela Gopi Chand academy were in agreement that he had the natural talent and skills to go the distance; they saw great things in his future.
That was till the day they saw his brother Srikanth play. The racquet sport hadn’t really appealed to Srikanth but seeing his brother do so well, the younger sibling decided to follow suit. The results weren’t so great and the decision to quit was always hovering inside his head.
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• A file picture of K Srikanth, who won the Thailand Open yesterday. (left) K Nandagopal won the mixed doubles in Maldives
But on his parents and brother’s insistence he decided to try out for Gopi’s academy and there the master coach saw a spark in this farmer’s son. Five years later it’s only poetic that on the very same day both the brothers fly back to Hyderabad from different points of the world with a title in tow.
Though Srikanth’s title has more grandeur than Nandagopal’s achievement, the two brothers finally came of age yesterday.
Srikanth, one of the most promising stars of the Gopi Chand academy, yesterday overpowered top-seeded local favourite Boonsak Ponsana 21-16 21-12 in the final of the Thailand Open to win his maiden Grand Prix Gold title.
Across countries Nandagopal and his mixed doubles partner K Maneesha clinched the Maldives Badminton Challenge title with a straight-game victory over Dae Sung Kim and Bo Kyung Oh of Korea in Male.
The pair from Andhra Pradesh registered a 21-16 23-21 win in 40 minutes. Srikanth took six minutes less to dispense off the world number eight. The 20-year-old, who once aspired to be a doubles player, brings a different approach to the single’s circuit.
He plays a fast game. His shots are more flat and quicker, an ability player’s develop in the doubles game. Yet he is deceptive near the net, a talent that was infused in his half a decade at the Gopi Chand academy.
It was just a matter of time
“The signs were there and it was just a matter of time. Srikanth has been consistently rising on the circuit. He has that spark in him.
When I first saw him I felt he was very unorthodox and that he needed a lot of fine tuning in order to succeed. There was also the figuring out part in which discipline he was much suited for,” national coach Gopi Chand told Mirror.
His wins in the junior circuit confirmed to Gopi that he was born for the singles circuit and his victory at the Maldives International last year was an early sign of his prowess at the top level. Srikanth initially made headlines when he claimed his first top-ten player.
At the Indian Open in April, Jan O Jorgensen of Denmark became Srikanth’s first big scalp. This week in Bangkok he has been in supreme form. Annexing the title apart he went through a line of top shuttlers without even dropping a single game in any of his six matches.
Along the way he took out the likes of Soo Hwang Jong of Korea, Jong’s compatriot and former India Open winner Son Wan Ho and finally the home star Ponsana. “It’s a great achievement because this shows that the men’s players in India are finally getting it together.
It’s been a while since a men’s player won a major singles title abroad and Srikanth has shown that he is the real deal,” Gopi said. “In fact, Nandagopal’s win is no less.
They faced teams from Indonesia, Korea and Chinese Taipei to win that mixed doubles title and that is no less achievement especially when he and Maneesha have just started playing together,” he added.
Srikanth has a very soft spoken demeanour and even after winning his title the excitement was missing from his voice. He was already thinking about the next tournament in Singapore.
In fact, he was more pleased to hear that his older brother had won. Even though a step ahead of his older brother, Srikanth still feels he’s following footsteps.
► Men’s players in India are finally getting it together. It’s been a while since a men’s player won a major singles title abroad and Srikanth has shown that he is the real deal