New Delhi: World number 1 shuttler Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia on Saturday said Indian players have improved immensely over the years and added that "never" had five players from the country qualified for the quarterfinals of the India Open badminton tournament.
"Now the Indian players are playing well. You had five Indians in the men`s quarterfinals here. Never before, right?," said Chong Wei.
He applauded the national coach Pullela Gopichand`s efforts and singled out Saina Nehwal and Parupalli Kashyap for special praise.
"India have improved a lot. They have a good coach in Gopichand, who won the All-England title. A lot of the players are good. Saina is very famous and also world number two. Kashyap is a good player," said the Malaysian.
Asked why China continues to rule world badminton, Chong Wei joked: "Because they have a lot of people in their country."
"India also has a lot of people and now a lot of good players. May be it`s a culture in China. But India is coming up, as are Japan, Thailand and a lot of other countries."
Chong Wei admitted that not having an Olympic gold hurts and if he remained injury-free, he would try his best to win the yellow metal in the 2016 Rio Olympics.
"Olympic gold missing from CV, hurts; Yes, Olympic gold is my dream. I tried my best and two times --in 2008 and 2012 -- I lost in the final. I`ll try one more time in 2016 if I stay injury-free."
Asked how long is he planning to continue playing, the 30-year-old shuttler said: "I`d like to see how my condition is next year after the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games. If I`m free of injuries, (I`d play) until 2016, one more Olympics.
"Next year, we have a lot of competitions -- Commonwealth Games, Asian Games, World Championships and I know Thomas Cup is in India. Hope I can maintain my results and don`t sustain injuries because you know injuries are very difficult to recover from and get back to court."
He, however, said there would be less pressure on him in the 2016 Olympics
"I know Malaysia never won gold in Olympics. I tried very hard, losing the final last year. I can take it easy in 2016 because I have won the silver two times. There would be less pressure in 2016."
Chong Wei said the upcoming Indian Badminton League, which is scheduled to be held in June, would be good for badminton in the country.
"Indian Badminton League... I know it`s after World Championship. League is good for the players and publicity. It`s good for India. You can have the Indian juniors playing with international players. You can invite a lot of China, Denmark and Malaysia players.
Chong Wei though added that he was yet to be approached for playing in the competition.
"I don`t know because nobody discussed with me. I must play in China league. Hope I can come to India. I love the fans here. Also because Yonex is my big sponsor," he said.