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Satwik and Chirag the pair to beat at Olympics: Gopichand

India’s chief badminton coach Pullela Gopichand says Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty would be the ‘ones to beat’ at the Paris Olympics and is hopeful PV Sindhu would add to her Olympic medal tally too.

Pullela Gopichand hails Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty
Pullela Gopichand hails Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty

Currently, the world’s best pair, Shetty and Rankireddy are in Paris for the $850,000 French Open. Sindhu too recently led India to a historic gold at the Badminton Asia Team Championships.

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“It would be fair to say that, as the world number 1 today, they are definitely a prospect to win at the highest level,” Gopichand, speaking at the inauguration of a sports conclave here, said about Rankireddy and Shetty.

“They are a solid pair; whenever they step on the court, they are one of the favorites. Months away, today, if I have to pick across sports, across countries, any one pair which is the pair to beat at the Olympics, it will have to be Satwik and Chirag.”

Sindhu too is shaping up well for the Olympics after beating Han Yue of China, Lo Sin Yan Happy of Hong Kong and Supanida Katethong of Thailand at the Asia Team Championships. “I’m definitely with Sindhu. Here is someone who has performed well in the past. I do believe that she is on the right track. The next few months will be crucial,” he said. “She had lost to Supanida (Katethong) previously, so beating her in the final was a significant victory.”

Asked how realistic he is about a medal from Sindhu, Gopichand said: “She definitely has good competition against players like (Korean world no 1) An Se Young, Chen Yu Fei (Chinese No 2) or whether it’s Akane Yamaguchi (Japan’s world No 4). But she has delivered in the past and has the potential to deliver this time around in Paris as well.”

“If you look at her game, it’s a very physical in that sense. So when you have conditions which are slow and where you have physicality become a major issue, she has always delivered. Typically, big stadiums always have a physical element which is there, that’s when Sindhu starts to become better.”

Asked about former world No. 1 Kidambi Srikanth’s downward slide (he is No 24 now), Gopichand said it has got to do more with Srikanth’s opponents becoming wiser about his game.

“He’s been working really hard, so I can’t really say there’s a problem in his work ethic,” said Gopichand. “However, people have analysed him extensively; they understand the type of game he plays. He has to figure out new ways, and he’s putting in the effort. Kashyap is helping him.”

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