Gopichand banking on singles at Thomas and Uber Cup

New Delhi: India might have an outside chance of making the quarterfinals of the World Men`s Team Championship for the Thomas Cup, but national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand today said his team could reach the last eight stage at the back of a strong singles performance.

India have been slotted with Malaysia, South Korea and Germany for the Thomas Cup to be held here from May 18-25. Thomas and Uber Cup tie have three singles and two doubles matches.

"We as a team are strong in singles, that is where our strength lies. I am hoping that we can pull off all three singles. Our singles players are strong but when you compare it with a like Lee Chong Wei (World No.1), then yes, we are not of the same level. He is one exception, but otherwise we have a good chance," said Gopichand during a media interaction here.

"We are good in singles, but having said that, we have had decent performances in the doubles, and hopefully we might pull off one of the doubles and that is what I am banking on to make the quarterfinals," he insisted.

Gopichand, however, admitted that the players would have to play out of their skins against both Malaysia and Korea.

"It`s going to be tough against Malaysia and Korea. Korea with their doubles players back or even without them, it is going to be difficult.

"As far as doubles is concerned, we have seen some good performances, though we haven`t won anything big to say that we can beat Malaysia or Korea. But against Germany we stand a good chance. And even against Malaysia, if we can play really well, we have a good chance," said the coach.

Talking about the strategy, Gopichand said: "The best way forward against somebody like Korea, would be to look at straight three singles. While somebody like Malaysia, we would look at two singles and one doubles. Against Germany we can look at all three singles and also we have a chance in both the doubles."

Talking about the women, Gopichand said they have a relatively easier group in the Uber Cup with Thailand, Canada and Hong Kong.

"We have a chance in second doubles as well. Also in the third singles with (PC) Thulasi or Arundhati (Pantawane), we have a chance. For the third singles, they are not bad," said the 40-year-old.

Saina Nehwal will be spearheading the Indian challenge but she has not been in top form for almost more than a year.

Speaking about the areas where the London Olympic bronze medalist need to work on, Gopichand said: "Overall, every areas needs to be focused on. It is a continuous process and every month and two months, there is always a change of plan."

Gopichand said playing at home could be both an advantage or disadvantage, and the players should be looking to gain the momentum.

"Home court could be an advantage or disadvantage as the pressure works both ways. In lot of the team matches, momentum is important. Hopefully, we can get a good start. Up in the first and second singles, the pressure will be on the opponents. But if your first two singles are down then it could be a disadvantage as well.

"It`s important that you start good. If you can get a good win on the first day then your morale is high on the second and third day also," said Gopichand.

He said Indian Badminton League (IBL), which was a team event, has helped the players prepare for Thomas and Uber cup.

"We are not expecting easy games. Shuttlers have played as a team in the IBL and have faced pressure matches and that experience will be helpful.

"All of them want to perform and do well. How you go and perform on court matters at the end of the day. How much you are able to control your nerves and how much you want to push and not feel the pressure at the court is what is important. All of them are very serious and focussed," concluded Gopichand.