Saina: It’s the most challenging time of my career

After suffering Achilles Tendonitis last year, India's badminton ace Saina Nehwal feels confident of performing well in her upcoming tournaments including the big one -- the Olympics.

Saina Nehwal is looking forward to perform well after recovering from Achilles Tendonitis.   -  Rajeev Bhatt

Left to nurse her Achilles tendons for more than six months, top shuttler Saina Nehwal today said it was the most challenging phase of her career. She is, however, in good shape now and is looking forward to defend her title at the India Super Series.

Saina had suffered an injury after her runner-up finish at the World Championship in August last year. She aggravated the injury by playing at the China Super Series Premier.

Then, she skipped the Hong Kong Open and participated at the BWF World Super Series Finals in December. She played a couple of matches at the Premier Badminton League (PBL) but had to skip the Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold, South Asian Games and the Asian Badminton Championships at Hyderabad.

“It was the most difficult injury that I had in my career. Achilles tendonitis takes a lot of time [to heal]. I had some issue with my shin and I came very close to having a stress fracture also,” Saina said.


“After the World Championship, I was just going through the tournaments without any practice. I was not able to train. I had to play China and Dubai. Luckily I pulled out a match against Carolina. I also had issues with my abdomen too, so I had two bad injuries,” she added.

Saina said she was unable to even walk after the China Super Series Premier.

“From January, I focused on strengthening my calf muscles. I had lost momentum but after two tournaments I feel much confident now. After such major injury, I was worried about my Achilles [tendon]. Every morning I was scared to put my right leg. I’m happy that there is no pain now,” said the 2012 Olympics bronze medallist.

“But I have to keep on doing the strengthening because if I leave that the pain will come back. The Achilles has become prone to injuries,” she said.

An electric shock therapy and a new trainer helped Saina to expedite her recovery.

“Saina had to go through the electric shock therapy session five to six times during February. Every week she would go through the sittings for 10 minutes and it has helped her. Also there is a new training coach, who helped her gain strength,” coach Vimal Kumar said.

Saina turned up for All England Championship early this month but she lost in the quarterfinals to Tzu Ying Tai of Chinese Taipei. She also played at the Swiss Open but was defeated by Wang Yihan in the semifinals.


“At All England, actually there is a lot of pressure when I approached the net and played at the back because such shots put a lot of pressure on my right leg. So I was scared it might happen again. I might get injured again. So it was difficult mentally,” Saina said.

Asked if she was confident of defending her title at the India Open, Saina said: “If I am fit, I will definitely do well. There will always be pressure on you when you are the defending champion.

“The conditions are different here then what it outside India. So unless I make errors, I should be able to pull off matches. I am back again. There were some things that I’ve worked on. I’ve covered them well. So hoping for a good season ahead,” said Saina, who opens her campaign against India’s Tanvi Lad in women’s singles tomorrow.

Asked if it was a difficult decision to play at the India Open, Saina said: “When you are good again, when you are fitter again, you need to play. You never know when it might come back again. Every year there are these events. It is basically two events to play. It is an Olympic year. So maintaining ranking is also important.

“After next month, I guess in June and July I will get time to train and get back to my 100 percent. It is much better now. It is all about playing more and more matches.”


The Olympic bronze medallist will once again carry India’s hopes at the Rio Games and Saina said she will have to be physically and mentally stronger ahead of the prestigious event but there is still time for that.

“Olympics is a high pressure tournament. Anybody can win. There are many top players. Every top player plays with a lot of pressure. It is not easy.

“Physically, I have to be well prepared for sure as I need more match practice. But I have to be mentally strong as well. But I guess there is enough time for that. There will be still one and a half month to go for the Olympics after May, so no need to bother now,” she said.

Asked how the competition level has changed compared to 2012 London Olympics, Saina said: “The game has become faster. Not only from China, other country also playing well. Wang Shixian is still playing finals, Li Xuerui is again another player. Tai Tzu Ying, Nozomi Okuhara, Carolina Marin are also good. The Korean Sung Ji is also there. It is a positive sign. The sport has become more global.”

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