From the publishers of THE HINDU

VOL.34 :: NO.14 :: Apr. 07, 2011

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BADMINTON / INTERVIEW/SAINA NEHWAL

Looking ahead

Like all true champions, Saina Nehwal wants to leave behind her failures and disappointments and focus on her immediate goals: to win the Indian Open in April and perform well on the Asian circuit. By V. V. Subrahmanyam

AP

Saina Nehwal... "I am confident of realising my dream of winning the All England title one day".

It's not always that favourites have won the All England Championship. Even the best of players have faltered on a given day at this prestigious event, and that is exactly the reason why the All England Championship stands out from the rest of the tournaments. Well, this is how India's champion badminton player Saina Nehwal sees her failure to win the All England title this year.

For the record, Saina was knocked out by Japan's Eriko Hirose in the quarterfinals.

“Obviously, it is a huge disappointment given the fact that I entered (the championship) this time in a better frame of mind and physical fitness. I was aware that I was dubbed the favourite,” said the World No. 3, who had entered the semifinals last year.

“But again, I believe that despite the favourable draw I had to play tough matches in the run-up to the quarterfinals. And there, honestly, Hirose played a vastly superior net game and her serve was really good,” Saina said.

“There is no doubt that the All England Championship has been the most tempting for me over the years. I am confident of realising my dream of winning it one day,” she added. Saina, 21, however, insisted that the Swiss Open Grand Prix title — she defeated South Korea's Sung Ji Hyun 21-13, 21-14 in the final — has enabled her to wipe off the bad memories of the All England Championship. “Let me reiterate that at this level, any international title is hard-earned. They are not offered on a platter,” she said.

“Definitely, winning the Swiss Open and getting the better of Hirose on way to the final was a lot sweeter,” she said.

Saina admitted that the start of the year has not been perfect for her. “Not many remember that I had come back from an ankle injury, which still occasionally bothers me. But it is not unbearable. Also I am not keen on staying away from the circuit for too long,” she explained. “But then, you can't expect me to win three titles in a row every time. Success and failure are part of any champion's career.”

According to Saina, her indifferent start to the 2011 season before winning the Swiss Open — which happens to be her ninth major title including four Super Series, three Grand Prix Gold and two Grand Prix crowns besides the Commonwealth Games gold — is not because of lack of commitment or the desired skills. “You need a bit of luck to keep winning consistently. I am aware that I have to cut down on the negatives,” she said.

“Yes, there are bound to be expectations and they also put some sort of pressure. But having come so far, I don't think I am incapable of handling them,” she stressed.

Isn't she finally enjoying the true status of a champion, given the endorsements she has been signing of late?

“Honestly, I never craved for them. These things come when you are successful and I am definitely happy as this augurs well for badminton itself. So, all that I wish is to keep doing well at the highest level and be in the news for all the right reasons,” she said flashing a broad smile.

Like all true champions, Saina wants to leave behind her failures and disappointments and focus on her immediate goals: to win the Indian Open in April and perform well on the Asian circuit.



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