Saina Nehwal heaps praise on Gopichand-led coaching staff after win over Carolina Marin

Nehwal said the coaching staff worked hard on her after she shifted base from Bangalore to Hyderabad, following the World Championship in August.

London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal praised her coaching staff led by Pullela Gopichand for working on her training in the lead up to the ongoing Denmark Open Super Series Premier.

The former world No 1 knocked Olympic champion Carolina Marin out of the tournament last night in the opening round to avenge her Japan Open second round loss to the Spaniard.

Nehwal had begun training at the Gopichand academy after shifting base from Bangalore to Hyderabad, following the World Championship in August. She was training under Vimal Kumar for the last three years, which included her most difficult injury phase.

“The coaches worked really hard on me in the last three weeks. They told me that my movements were very heavy. Gopi sir found out at the World Championship that I was sort of falling down and I was not able to get up fast from the net and the players were catching me behind with fast tosses,” she said.

“He was scared that I had just come in and so he did not give me very tough training, they just focused that I get adapted to the training, so he was not pushing me very hard. All thanks to Mulyo (Handoyo), Gopi sir and Hariawan, three of them made a plan for me, made me believe that I had the game and I just need to work on my movement and sharpen my strokes, basically think smarter and not go all out.”

Okuhara defeat still rankles

A year ago, Nehwal had bowed out of the Rio Olympics after suffering from a knee problem and had to undergo a surgery. But she fought back to not only recover but also win the World Championship bronze medal in August.

She lost in the semi-finals to Okuhara, an opponent she has beaten six times in the past.

The 2015 World Championship silver medallist said, though, she was happy with the bronze, losing to Okuhara “pinched’ her as she wanted to win the title.

“Any kind of victory feels good, but I also wanted to win the tournament because I have beaten Okuhara so many times, so it pinched me but the way she was playing in the World Championship, the kind of retrievals she came up with was amazing,” the 27-year-old said.

“The World Championship taught me a lesson that I have to work even harder on my stamina. I felt I was kind of tight in my hip and legs and of course my shots were also not sharp. Looking at the way (Nozomi) Okuhara has improved, Carolina and Sindhu’s improvement, the way they were playing big rallies, I am just happy to come a little close but I have a lot of improvement to be done,” she added.

The focus for Nehwal now is to break back into the top-10.

“I have to play difficult players early because I am ranked 12 now,” Nehwal said. “A lot of players who are ranked below me are getting good draws and before the match I was thinking ‘Oh my God’ I am getting such tough draws. But I know I have to beat tough players to come back to top-10 again,” Nehwal said after a tense battle against Marin.

Asked if she has any targets for next year, Nehwal said: “I just want to think about one tournament at a time. I don’t trust my body nowadays, my body can do anything. I am just happy with the kind of training I did in this tournament,” she added.

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“My body instantly craves chai and samosa”

German expats talk about adapting to India, and the surprising similarities between the two cultures.

The cultural similarities between Germany and India are well known, especially with regards to the language. Linguists believe that Sanskrit and German share the same Indo-Germanic heritage of languages. A quick comparison indeed holds up theory - ratha in Sanskrit (chariot) is rad in German, aksha (axle) in Sanskrit is achse in German and so on. Germans have long held a fascination for Indology and Sanskrit. While Max Müller is still admired for his translation of ancient Indian scriptures, other German intellectuals such as Goethe, Herder and Schlegel were deeply influenced by Kalidasa. His poetry is said to have informed Goethe’s plays, and inspired Schlegel to eventually introduce formal Indology in Germany. Beyond the arts and academia, Indian influences even found their way into German fast food! Indians would recognise the famous German curry powder as a modification of the Indian masala mix. It’s most popular application is the currywurst - fried sausage covered in curried ketchup.

It is no wonder then that German travellers in India find a quite a lot in common between the two cultures, even today. Some, especially those who’ve settled here, even confess to Indian culture growing on them with time. Isabelle, like most travellers, first came to India to explore the country’s rich heritage. She returned the following year as an exchange student, and a couple of years later found herself working for an Indian consultancy firm. When asked what prompted her to stay on, Isabelle said, “I love the market dynamics here, working here is so much fun. Anywhere else would seem boring compared to India.” Having cofounded a company, she eventually realised her entrepreneurial dream here and now resides in Goa with her husband.

Isabelle says there are several aspects of life in India that remind her of home. “How we interact with our everyday life is similar in both Germany and India. Separate house slippers to wear at home, the celebration of food and festivals, the importance of friendship…” She feels Germany and India share the same spirit especially in terms of festivities. “We love food and we love celebrating food. There is an entire countdown to Christmas. Every day there is some dinner or get-together,” much like how Indians excitedly countdown to Navratri or Diwali. Franziska, who was born in India to German parents, adds that both the countries exhibit the same kind of passion for their favourite sport. “In India, they support cricket like anything while in Germany it would be football.”

Having lived in India for almost a decade, Isabelle has also noticed some broad similarities in the way children are brought up in the two countries. “We have a saying in South Germany ‘Schaffe Schaffe Hausle baue’ that loosely translates to ‘work, work, work and build a house’. I found that parents here have a similar outlook…to teach their children to work hard. They feel that they’ve fulfilled their duty only once the children have moved out or gotten married. Also, my mother never let me leave the house without a big breakfast. It’s the same here.” The importance given to the care of the family is one similarity that came up again and again in conversations with all German expats.

While most people wouldn’t draw parallels between German and Indian discipline (or lack thereof), Germans married to Indians have found a way to bridge the gap. Take for example, Ilka, who thinks that the famed differences of discipline between the two cultures actually works to her marital advantage. She sees the difference as Germans being highly planning-oriented; while Indians are more flexible in their approach. Ilka and her husband balance each other out in several ways. She says, like most Germans, she too tends to get stressed when her plans don’t work out, but her husband calms her down.

Consequently, Ilka feels India is “so full of life. The social life here is more happening; people smile at you, bond over food and are much more relaxed.” Isabelle, too, can attest to Indians’ friendliness. When asked about an Indian characteristic that makes her feel most at home, she quickly answers “humour.” “Whether it’s a taxi driver or someone I’m meeting professionally, I’ve learnt that it’s easy to lighten the mood here by just cracking a few jokes. Indians love to laugh,” she adds.

Indeed, these Germans-who-never-left as just diehard Indophiles are more Indian than you’d guess at first, having even developed some classic Indian skills with time. Ilka assures us that her husband can’t bargain as well as she does, and that she can even drape a saree on her own.

Isabelle, meanwhile, feels some amount of Indianness has seeped into her because “whenever its raining, my body instantly craves chai and samosa”.

Like the long-settled German expats in India, the German airline, Lufthansa, too has incorporated some quintessential aspects of Indian culture in its service. Recognising the centuries-old cultural affinity between the two countries, Lufthansa now provides a rich experience of Indian hospitality to all flyers on board its flights to and from India. You can expect a greeting of Namaste by an all-Indian crew, Indian food, and popular Indian in-flight entertainment options. And as the video shows, India’s culture and hospitality have been internalized by Lufthansa to the extent that they are More Indian Than You Think. To experience Lufthansa’s hospitality on your next trip abroad, click here.


This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of Lufthansa as part of their More Indian Than You Think initiative and not by the Scroll editorial team.