Vimal Kumar: ‘Toughest’ Saina Nehwal a favourite for All-England title

According to Vimal Kumar, her former coach, Saina Nehwal is mentally the toughest badminton player in India.

Saina Nehwal (in picture) will have to train smartly to maintain her level at the top for the next two years, says Vimal Kumar.   -  Rajeev Bhatt

Saina Nehwal is mentally the toughest badminton player in India, according to her former coach Vimal Kumar.

“She is definitely mentally the toughest, I will [even]  give her edge over the men’s players, she is much tougher than all of them,” Vimal, who had coached Saina from 2014 to 2017, told PTI on Tuesday. “She doesn’t think too much once she is on court, no matter if she has some pain, she will go all out and make it difficult for her opponents,” he added.

Despite having suffered a shin injury late last year, Saina has been in good form of late. She clinched the Indonesia Masters title on Sunday, January 29.

Read | Saina Nehwal clinches Indonesia Masters title

With Carolina Marin, the World No. 4, having suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and Tai Tzu Ying, the World No. 1, recuperating from a wrist injury, Saina and compatriot P. V. Sindhu will have a great chance to end India’s wait for an All England title, felt Vimal.

Opportunities

“It (Indonesia Masters win) will give Saina a lot of confidence and can help her in All England Championship; she can target that,” he said. “Carolina also might need five-six months to recover if the injury is serious, so the All England will be wide open. Carolina and Tai Tzu Ying were favourites. So now Saina and Sindhu will have big chance to win the title,” he added.

Vimal Kumar (right) coached Saina Nehwal from 2014 to 2017. Photo: Sandeep Saxena

 

Saina, who turns 29 in March, is currently the oldest player in the top 10. Vimal felt it was important for her to train smart to stay at the top of her game.

“She has had her share of injuries. I was there with her at the [Rio] Olympics (in 2016). She was preparing well and suddenly, it came up. But subsequently, the way she came back, [we] have to give her credit. Now it is a question of training smart. She has a couple of years at the top and with the Olympics coming up, she would want to do well. I don’t want to go that far now but she can immediately think of doing well at the All England,” he said.

‘Creditable performance’

After her injury setback at Rio, Saina returned to win the Malaysia Masters in 2017. It was her last BWF title before the Indonesia Masters. “It is a creditable performance from her. I saw a few matches, I don’t know if she had the stamina to play at a good pace like Tai Tzu Ying and Carolina Marin as she was carrying a bit of injury. I don’t think she was in right shape but because of mental toughness she pulled through quite a few matches,” observed Vimal.

Read | I am getting better and better, Saina says after winning Indonesia Masters

In 2018, Saina had won her second Commonwealth Games title, besides a bronze at the Asian Games and runner-up finishes at Indonesia Masters, Denmark Open and the Syed Modi International tourneys.