India’s chief National coach P. Gopi Chand has the rare distinction of having a 2-1 head-to-head record against one of the all-time greats of world badminton, Lin Dan. So, when the Chinese legend called it quits, Gopi took pride in his encounters with him even as he hailed him as “one of the greatest” shuttlers ever.
“I am somebody who is not comfortable in giving ratings to any athlete. But, I would certainly rate Lin Dan as one of the greatest ever to grace the sport,” Gopi told The Hindu. “To hold your own place when some of your contemporaries are equally great players like Taufik [Hidayat], Lee Chong Wei and Peter Gade is something that speaks of his mastery.
“When Lin Dan started off, he was an exceptionally attacking player like most Chinese. But the way he adapted to shore up his defence and turn it into his biggest strength is something everyone is in awe of.”
“Most of the sporting disciplines have witnessed great rivalries, and like in tennis between the greats Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, the battles between Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei reached epic heights and were always a connoisseur’s delight. [But] I always felt Lee was a better player in certain aspects,” Gopi added.
What stood out in Lin Dan’s game was his ability to close out a match, Gopi felt. “For this reason, I would rate his 2012 London Olympics gold-medal winning match as the best I had seen. From a seemingly helpless position, he turned the tables with his typical mastery.”
“The sport will surely miss the great Lin Dan though I felt he should have retired three years ago, for, in the recent past he was never the same player for various reasons.
“But again, Lin Dan remains a very, very special player famed for his no-nonsense approach with a high level of mental toughness.”