India Open: Saina's retorts surprise all; Sindhu, Srikanth ready

Saina Nehwal snubbed two women journalists in separate cut-and-dried responses to innocuous questions and her aggressive tone left many among those present wondering if all was well with the champion shuttler.

Saina Nehwal and Carolina Marin attend a press conference in New Delhi on Tuesday.   -  Shiv Kumar Pushpakar

Saina Nehwal never ceases to surprise. One can expect her to bounce back from the brink or trip when on top. Undoubtedly, her never-say-die attitude has kept her among the game’s elite for over a decade now.

Ahead of Wednesday's main round action in the $350,000 India Open, the former World No. 1 added to her list of rather unpleasant surprises during the Players’ press meet here in the presence of P.V. Sindhu, K. Srikanth, Olympic champion Carolina Marin and chief coach P. Gopi Chand.

She snubbed two women journalists in separate cut-and-dried responses to innocuous questions and her aggressive tone left many among those present wondering if all was well with the champion shuttler.

Responding to a supplementary question seeking players’ view on the new cash-rich BWF tournament calendar, Saina was rather curt: “I am
only thinking of fitness. Not thinking of tournaments.”

Soon, in the background of Saina’s appearance in the final of Indonesia Masters on Sunday, she was asked, “How does it feel to be among the title-contenders this week (at the India Open)?" The former champion surprised all retorting, “I have not been a favourite for a while. Now where did that (title-contender) come from?”

Though Saina made no secret of her displeasure on being made part of the press conference, she salvaged the situation a bit by being more elaborate with her last answer, on how she has been dealing with the unprecedented seven-match losing streak to the current World No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying.

“Not just me, she has beaten a lot of top players last year. That’s why she is World No. 1. In the top-10, any one can beat any one. It is not that she cannot be beaten,” was the response from Saina who has managed to win just three games out of the 17 played in their last seven encounters.

Sindhu, loser to Tai Tzu Ying in all four clashes after beating her in 2016 Rio Olympics, was far more gracious in her response. “I think you could also mention that I beat her in the recent Premier Badminton League,” she said in a lighter vein and continued, “I know it was a different point format. We know she is playing very well. But I am working on ways to beat her. Let’s see.”

Srikanth reflected on how he had to miss two Superseries events ahead of BWF World Finals in Dubai and then the Indonesia Masters owing to leg-muscle strains but now finds himself ready for the season.

“I think now I am fit and ready for the events ahead. I have trained for about two weeks (after the Premier Badminton league) and feeling good about my fitness,” said the World No. 3, the favourite after the pullout of top seed and World champion Viktor Axelsen.

Carolina Marin, the only player to have entered all three World Tour events this month, said, “I am playing these events because I feel comfortable in these conditions. And more importantly, I think, this is good preparation for the All England championship (in March).”