A day before Saina Nehwal recorded a gutsy victory in the match of the year so far in the quarterfinals of the Indonesia Open, another Indian scored what will be long remembered in the annals of Indian badminton history. Not often in the men’s singles has a top Chinese player been beaten by an Indian – perhaps we must go back to 2001, when Pullela Gopichand won the All England title beating Peter Gade and Chen Hong on subsequent days. Since then, there have been some big wins – Anup Sridhar over Taufik Hidayat and Peter Gade; Arvind Bhat over Kenneth Jonassen, and Chetan Anand over Sony Dwi Kuncoro – but PARUPALLI KASHYAP’S defeat of Chen Long will rank as a standout moment.
In this interview with Dev S Sukumar, Kashyap goes over that finely-executed victory:
Would you rate the Chen Long victory your best ever?
It’s my best by far. Whatever I trained with Gopi bhaiyya for four weeks went to perfection. I played the right kind of game – I was patient and attacking wel. Gopi bhaiyya saw my matches the whole year and made a good schedule and helped me with technical corrections.
How intimidating was it to face Chen Long across the net?
Very intimidating. He is strongly built, and his game is very physical. He’s is very steady at his game, no unforced errors. My strength is the net and my hit. You need to stick with him during the rallies. I was able to catch him at the net and even hit through him – that unsettled him, because he was unused to it. I worked a lot on my smashes and netplay. I was comfortable during the long rallies. I had trained for four weeks. With Chen Long, as long as he’s defending, he’s comfortable, but if you hit through them, they get confused. India has good strokeplayers but finishing rallies has been the problem.
You lost to Simon Santoso in the semifinals. Are you concerned that you couldn’t go all the way to the title?
Well, the matches until the semis were physically taxing too. Against Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (in the quarterfinal), I played the way I did against Chen Long, but I should’ve changed my game against Santoso. He had a different kind of game, his defence was very strong. He caught me with his deception at the net. I should’ve played from the back court a lot more. But it was close, and in the first game, it was just three points that made the difference.
There should be a different strategy in every match. I feel I’ll do better; I have got a bit better.
They all have different styles. Lin Dan is sharp, his strokes have more variations, but I’ve done well against him. Chen Long was comfortable against me the last two times we played, so I had to change my game this time.
What does this win do to your Olympic hopes?
I felt good after beating Chen Long… I feel he’s one of the toughest. And to beat him in straight games, I felt very happy. It gives me a lot of confidence for the Olympics.
There’s not much on my mind (about the Olympics). I’m an underdog