How was the IBL experience?
It was great. I thought I would be fresh but was a little tired after the World Championships. I was tired mentally rather than physically. I had two wins and three losses. It was a good experience being with the team. We had a great team but lost very close matches. We had some top players like Carsten Mogensen, Hu Yun and some good women’s singles players. We lost very close matches against Mumbai and Pune. This format is so intense and every match is crucial. We just lost out.
Why do you think your team failed to reach the semis?
My match against Vladimir Ivanov of Mumbai was crucial. Subsequently in that tie, Hu Yun was leading and lost to Zwiebler. Had we won against Mumbai, it would have been good. These two matches were close. Hu Yun-Anup Sridhar match was close. A couple of matches were really crucial. We should have won them and the tie.
You think Banga Beats has the team to win the IBL?
For sure we have the team to win IBL. We lost 1-4 to pune. It could have been 3-2. I could have won my match. We had close matches. This format is about that. We have a great team. Am sure next year it will be different.
How much did losing bother you?
The conditions were very tough. The way I trained for World Championships and the conditions in India were tough to adjust to. Although I did really well, I lost very close matches. I was not outplayed. I felt tired against Sourabh Verma (Pune Pistons). But again, I got good wins against Sai Praneeth (Delhi Smashers) and K Srikanth (Awadhe Warriors). The conditions were extremely tough. I was under a lot of pressure to win my matches, especially against lower ranked opponents.
There were a lot of things to learn, how to handle various situations. Sure it will help me in the future. It makes a lot of difference when you play for a team and everybody expects you to win. Otherwise, you play for yourself. I made a few mistakes the way I handled the matches. I will only get better. I have to work on a few aspects of my game. If I have to reach the top five in the world, I need to be a complete player. Am sure Gopi Sir (chief national coach Pullela Gopichand) watched all my matches and we’ll work together and get better.
Did the pressure come from being an icon player?
I wouldn’t say that. I feel younger players have nothing to lose against me. The level is quite good. They are not far behind. I am No. 1 in India and everyone wants to beat me. I realise that.
Where did you lack?
I thought a little more variation on the net was required. Fitness wise, it was not a big test in the tournament other than the travelling. We had late night matches, travelling early next morning without adequate sleep, it was hectic. But we will get used to it. I have not seen so many crowd come and watch us play. We will have to handle it. It was my first experience. I could have done a lot of things better in my preparation. I also gained from Mogensen, the way he handles pressure,. Especially how he deals differently with a team from when he is on his own in a tournament.
Banga Beats had an outside chance of entering the semifinals against Hyderabad on Tuesday. But you lost to Tanongsak?
We had a chance by winning 5-0. My match was important. I was extremely motivated. I enter the court to win every match whether we are out or in. No top player wants to lose. We won the tie 3-2. Saina won a close match against Tai Tzu Ying, who played a very good match. It could have been 5-0 and we would have been in the semis.
Before the IBL was the World Championships and you entered the quarterfinals. Happy or sad?
I played a very good tournament in the slower conditions in China. I could not get past the quarterfinals. It was a close match. I had the opportunity to win the medal for the country. I felt disappointed. I am very happy reaching the later stages of the major events. I entered the quarterfinals of Olympics, All England and World Championships. I just want to keep going and end in the top 10 by year end.
You will be 27 next month. Are better days ahead for you?
I am sure, yes. Twenty seven is the peak age of Indian shuttlers. My fitness is also in peak form. As long I stay injury free and keep working hard, I should be okay.
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