Hyderabad: Badminton certainly seems to be in the genes. With her recent national-level exploits, Gayatri, the daughter of India coach Pullela Gopichand, is out to prove she is more than just a name. The 11-year-old made history when she became the first under-13 shuttler to win an under-17 all-India ranking title recently at Kakinada alongside doubles partner Jakka Vaishnavi Reddy.
Not very surprising when you take her pedigree into account. Her father Gopi is a former All England Open champion and award-winning coach while mother Lakshmi is a former national badminton champion. Her brother Sai Vishnu, 8, also plays badminton.
Both the siblings train at their father’s academy, the Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy at Gachibowli. Lakshmi brings them to the Academy everyday for practice.
“I suppose badminton comes naturally to them,” says Gopi, who added his kids picked up the racquet on their own.
“I would love it if they make badminton their career, but, having coached so many players, I know that not everyone can become a champion. So we put no pressure on them,” he added.
The fact that both his children train at his Academy is a bonus, says Gopi, who finds his time divided between coaching Indian superstars like P. V. Sindhu and Parupalli Kashyap, or accompanying the Indian team to various tournaments abroad.
“I’m really happy as now, I get to see them a few hours every day. When they were younger, I didn’t get to see much of them, what with my coaching and travelling commitments,” Gopi said.
And how does he draw the line between being a doting dad and a stern coach? “It’s a little difficult right now as they’re both very young,” Gopi admits. “It should get easier as they grow older and understand their responsibilities.”
“At the Academy,” Gopi adds, “I’m the exact same way with them as I am with the other players. At home, it’s a completely different story,” he adds with a chuckle.
Both kids have never taken advantage of the fact that he’s their father, something Gopi is very proud about. “They show a good attitude on the court, and they’re there to learn.”
For the moment, Gopi says, it is enough for him to play a supervisory role in the shaping of his children’s game. “My time is presently being taken up by the other players, but there are fine coaches at the Academy who take care of their daily training. I just supervise.”
Vishnu is currently playing a tournament at the GHMC Sports Complex at Chandanagar in Hyderabad while Gayatri is in Visakhapatnam to continue her winning run....