Focus firmly on court

Saina Nehwal with Vimal Kumar during a practice session in Bangalore.-PTIO

Saina Nehwal courted unnecessary controversy at the turn of the year with a comment on a social networking site, about missing out on a nomination for the Padma Bhushan. The shuttler, however, assures V. V. SUBRAHMANYAM that the row has not distracted her from her goal to achieve further success on the professional circuit.

Indian badminton ace Saina Nehwal is happy with her campaign in the 2014 season and terms it better than the previous year. Saina had a barren 2013, failing to win any title. Currently ranked No. 3 in the world, she has started 2015 on a positive note, winning the Syed Modi International Badminton Championships in Lucknow, beating reigning World champion Carolina Marin of Spain in the final.

“In 2013, my confidence was low and subsequently my ranking slipped (to world No. 9). But I started the last season well, winning the India Open Gold Grand Prix. But, despite good performances I was failing to win Super Series events,” the London Olympics bronze medallist says. “I did win the Australian Open Super Series in June, but my performance at the World Championship was far from satisfactory.”

The 24-year-old needed a change in approach and hence decided to train with former national champion Vimal Kumar in Bangalore. “I was not playing well against the top players of the world. I wanted a change and decided to train under Vimal Sir,” Saina says. “From September onwards there was an improvement in my game and I started winning, again, against top players. I subsequently won the China Open.

“Even my semi-final appearance at the Dubai BWF Super Series was satisfying because of the wins over Shixian, Ju Hyun Sung and Bae Youn Ju. These players have always troubled me on the circuit,” she adds.

Talking of the current season, Saina says, “I just hope to stay fit and do well. I haven’t set any targets yet. I will just train hard and give my best in every tournament.”

The shuttler courted unnecessary controversy at the turn of the year with a comment on a social networking site, about missing out on a nomination for the Padma Bhushan Award.

Her comment received widespread media coverage and the Union Sports Ministry was quick to recommend her name for the award. Looking back, Saina insists that she was not demanding a nomination. “I was just trying to convey my disappointment. These awards are a huge motivation for us, athletes,” she says. “I have nothing against Sushil Kumar (the two-time Olympics medallist was a nominee for this year’s Award, but failed to get it) and we are still good friends, despite this unwanted row.”

For now, Saina just wants to focus on achieving further success on the court. “Badminton is my first priority and I want to consistently keep doing well at the highest level,” she says.