The tough life following the knee surgery, when she struggled to take a step without pain, and the maturity gained from the years of experience, winning laurels at every level around the world, have made Saina Nehwal brutally honest.
Dropping her guard and cheerfully answering every tricky question thrown at her by a bunch of mediapersons, Saina said “fitness was the only focus” for the hectic season ahead.
It may be a dream season for the badminton fans, what with the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games, to go with the World Championships and numerous Super Series events, but for the professionals who are taxed on court, it can be a nightmare.
“I am not looking forward to any tournament,” said Saina, as she backed her answer to focus on fitness in the year ahead, go with the flow, and win whatever comes in her way.
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When asked whether she was happy to win the national title, beating P.V. Sindhu in the final, Saina was forthright. “The national championship is nothing,” she said, comparing it to the World Championship where she won the bronze. “I didn’t expect a medal in the World Championship. I was losing first or second rounds in tournaments before that. At the World Championship, your energy goes away with each match,” Saina said, stressing about the intensity of competition at the highest level.
She candidly admitted that she won the national final against P. V. Sindhu on the basis of her sound movement on court. “I was playing good and moving well. I was also tired. I didn’t have the stamina for the third game. She had more stamina,” recalled Saina, who won an extended second game for the title.
She was particularly proud of the way she had fought back to be on her feet and winning, after the knee surgery. “I don’t give up easily,” said Saina, and recalled days when her parents would opt to go the gym to train, which motivated her to stick to her recovery and rehabilitation routine.
“It was an extra growth of bone, that could happen any time. It happened at that time. May be it was destined,” she said, looking back at her early exit from the Rio Olympics and the quick decision she took for surgery on consulting the experts.
“I could have given up, sat at home, and be happy watching TV like anyone. I am not that kind of person. I want to play as long as I can.”
“I still believe that if I am fit, I can beat all of them,” Saina said with conviction. “There are times when you don’t find a gap as your opponent reaches everything. You need strength when you lunge as it puts six times more weight on the joints..”
Assuring that she would put her best effort to win more Super Series events, Saina said that things were not in her control. “I will try my best, but God and body decide,” she said, trying to put things in perspective.
Saina was confident that the strong Indian team would win a lot of medals in the Commonwealth Games, and that the Asian Games could be “very tough”.
Looking at the current crop of Chinese players, Saina said that Chinese players like Li Xuerui and Wang Yihan were a lot stronger and very challenging, and that she had expected them to continue for a few more years.
Saina admired some of the players from Japan, especially the way they covered the court, against taller opponents.
Life was back to normal with coach Gopi Chand grooming her after the World Championship, and Saina said that it was nice of him to be the same with her as earlier.
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