http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/a...how/336043.cms

Gopi shifts focus to doubles

TIMES NEWS NETWORK[ TUESDAY, DECEMBER 02, 2003 11:48:30 PM ]

HYDERABAD : For the first time in his career, badminton ace Pullela Gopi Chand will train his focus on doubles, starting with the All-India major ranking tournaments this fortnight in Surat and Lucknow .




Although followers of the game have seen the champion shuttler play doubles matches too, mostly in team events, this will be the first time he will be playing doubles in a open event and staying away from singles.



Gopi Chand’s partner in both the tournaments will be former junior national champion and statemate Chetan Anand.



Hints that the former All-England champion is toying with this idea have been there ever since he returned to the court a fortnight ago. His concentration on doubles during practice sessions at the Lal Bahadur indoor stadium was too obvious, but that was construed as a measure aimed at preserving his troublesome right knee.



“Honestly, my knee is still not in good shape. Of course, it is much better than what it was during my trip to Denmark and Germany in October, but the condition in which it is now is definitely not what I would have liked it to be,” said Gopi Chand prior to his departure for Surat. Why is he returning to competitive cirucit when he is not fully fit? Doesn’t it convey a message that he is over the hill in singles play?



Gopi Chand is not greatly concerned about this. “I don’t want to stay away from the game for too long and at the same time I don’t want to give too much work to my knee. So the best way I thought was to play doubles until I regain complete fitness,” Gopi Chand said.



Obviously, Gopi Chand wants to get into stride in time for the Thomas Cup competitions in February. “For almost 20 days since returning from Europe , I didn’t hold the racket. That made me a bit restless. Also, I wanted to be match fit by the year end. This is only a light beginning,” he said.



The last time Gopi played a doubles match was at the Punjab National Games three years ago. Then also his partner was Chetan Anand. His last doubles game at the international level was at the Commonwealth Games. How does he expect his team to do at these events? “There are quite a few good entries at both the tournaments and I am sure we will not have an easy time. That is precisly what I was looking for,” Gopi said.



This is not the first time that a top player in the country has taken the doubles route to regain his form and fitness. Former champion and now a top coach in the country, Vimal Kumar had switched to doubles in troubled times. And so did Hyderabadis Praveen Kumar and Manoj Kumar