Discipline, a great asset

MAHESH HARILAL

I sincerely believe that Saina's burning desire should see her come back with a medal from the London Olympics. This is the best chance, given the fact that she is playing well right now. By S. M. Arif.

There are no second thoughts about Saina Nehwal being the best Olympics medal prospect in badminton from India. And, I am glad that she rose to this stature. I saw the spark in her when she first started playing the sport at the Lal Bahadur Stadium in 1998. I have always felt that it was not just her speed, agility and power-game on the court but also her remarkable grit and intensity to keep improving and great discipline that helped her to this level in the circuit.

Honestly, I feel that she has to work really hard on the parallel strokes and the push shots at the net. If you have noticed, not many rivals are now giving her the freedom to play at the net where Saina is really strong. She is now constantly pushed away from the net and, under pressure, she is leaving huge gaps on either flanks. She has to work really hard and not let her opponents come on top at the net.

Yet, Saina, the World No. 5, is a force to reckon with and it gives a great sense of pride and satisfaction to see that she has emerged as the major threat to the otherwise impregnable ‘Chinese Wall' in badminton.

To be specific on her chances in the 2012 London Olympics, I have a feeling that if she runs into the top three players early in the championship, she has a definite chance of winning a medal. And, if she meets them in the latter half of the championship, then it might become really tough. Though she has beaten most of the Chinese and other higher ranked players, Saina is yet to get the better of Wang Yihan because of the latter's speed and tactical game. She remains the biggest threat to Saina and it will be interesting to see how the Indian champion handles it in Olympics, so different from any other Super Series or Grand Prix event.

I always believe that the way she trains is something really special. Never ever gets boring. Saina's discipline — off the court — is another great asset which separates her from the rest of the crowd.

I sincerely believe that Saina's burning desire should see her come back with a medal from the London Olympics. This is the best chance, given the fact that she is playing really well right now. Wish she fulfils the aspirations of a billion Indians!

As told to V. V. Subrahmanyam