A buoyant Saina is ready for Rio

Saina Nehwal’s confidence is back with the victory in the Australian Super Series. The triumph is very important in the run-up to the Rio Olympics, the champion player says.

Saina Nehwal displays her Australian Open Super Series medal at her residence in Hyderabad.   -  K. V. S. Giri

Saina Nehwal is happy to be back to her winning ways. The 26-year-old Indian badminton star is hoping to better her 2012 London Olympics performance — where she won the bronze medal — in Rio.

Speaking to the media at her residence after a triumphant return from Sydney, where Saina won her second Australian Super Series title, the champion player said that her confidence is back and the victory Down Under was very important in the run-up to the Rio Olympics.

“This win was significant, as I was making a comeback from a serious injury,” she added.

Talking of her defeats before the Australian Super Series, Saina said, “Yes, there was a feeling of disappointment with the string of losses (I had suffered). I was World No. 1 at the start of the year, now I have slipped to No. 8. Making it to the semis and quarters was not good enough. Against that backdrop, the Sydney triumph is a major morale-booster ahead of the Olympics.

“The victory was all the more sweet as I could beat the classy Ratchanok, Wang Yihan and Sun in the knock-out phase. It was the kind of experience which is badly needed, as we will be playing in the Olympics.”

Saina went on: “I am aware that I need to be tactically better against these world-class players. Right from my childhood I was never talented but came up working really hard.”

As for her preparation for Rio, Saina said, “Vimal Sir will be helping me work on my half-smashes, close drops. He will also help fine-tune some of the finer aspects of my game to make me a much better player in the Olympics.

“The best part is that my team, comprising Vimal Sir, Rana and the physio, besides my parents, is very positive. This helps you stay in the best frame of mind. That is why even if I lose in the first round of a major, I will go back to work really harder and try to minimise the silly errors that often cost you the match.”

Speaking on her prospects in Rio, Saina pointed out: “It is never going to be easy. Especially, the women’s section is really tough and there is very little to choose.

“All I can say is that I will go there and give off my best. Yes, till the Olympics only training and focusing on fine-tuning my game. I would love to be there, in the Olympics Village, six days before the competition, but it depends on finding a suitable sparring partner.”

On her game, Saina said that she would love to be more aggressive and faster. “I saw the match between Carolina and Wang and they played so fast in the Indonesian Open. I just wanted to play like that, and I am glad that I could do so in Sydney,” she said.

Saina dismissed the talk that she was disappointed about not being nominated India’s flag-bearer for the Rio Olympics. “No, not at all. I have great respect for Abhinav (Bindra) sir. He is an Olympic gold medallist,” she said.

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