Saina Nehwal far from finished: I want to win more, have to stop playing if I listen to naysayers
India Open 2023: Speaking to reports after winning her opening round in New Delhi, Saina Nehwal said she is motivated to carry on and return to winning ways again. The 32-year-old said she is ready to face tougher challenges, having overcome persistent injury issues.
Saina Nehwal got off to a winning start at India Open 2023 (Courtesy: BAI Media)
By India Today Web Desk: London Olympic bronze medalist Saina Nehwal is not done yet. She may not be the menacing figure on the circuit any longer, but the desire to win and taste success is burning bright, once again. The 32-year-old, who last won a title on the Badminton World Federation Tour in January 2019, is willing to fight battles on and off the court and bow out on a high.
The former World No. 1 ended an unwanted streak on Tuesday, January 17 in New Delhi, one of her favourite hunting grounds. Saina notched up the first win in 6 starts on the tour, overcoming a tricky test against higher-ranked Mia Blichfeldt of Denmark in the opening round of women’s singles at India Open 2023 Super 750 tournament. It was her first win in 3 meetings against the World No. 24.
Saina was more relieved than happy, adding that a streak of losses affected her mentally. The feeling of a win came as a big boost to Saina, who added that she is slowly but surely feeling better on the court, in terms of her movement and fitness.
Saina has been dealing with recurring knee injury issues over the last 2 years and success has been eluding her. But, a good start at India Open, which she has won twice in her glittering career (2010 and 2015) has instilled the belief that she can compete with the best.
Saina has a tough test in the 2nd round against Olympic champion Chen Yufei of China but the veteran Indian shuttler is hopeful of doing better and giving it her all against top 10 opponents in the near future.
“I am happy that I played without a knee issue. The last 2-3 months were a gradual improvement. Today, I could see that I worked on my stamina and worked on my overall hitting game as well,” Saina told reporters in New Delhi after her first-round win at India Open.
“I have been getting really tough players in the first round. But, I have to win something to get to the better rounds. Otherwise, I have to face them again and again. All 32 players are playing extremely well. Somewhere, I had to pull out wins and get my confidence back. I want to give my best against the top 10 players,” the World No. 31 added.
“With the coverage, shots, and speed today, I think I can match the top players very well.”
‘PEOPLE SPEAKING IS NATURAL’
Saina, who failed to make the Tokyo Olympics qualification, has been written off umpteen times but the star shuttler has constantly kept proving naysayers wrong. It’s no different even as she heads into the twilight of her career.
The 2-time Commonwealth Games gold medalist said she has been able to find solutions to her injury issues in the recent past and is feeling much better at the start of the new season.
“People speak about not performing. That’s natural. For me, if I don’t fight it outâ€¦ the issue was small, it wasn’t something that I could not fight. But, if I think about people, maybe I have to stop playing badminton. I have to find a solution. If I can, very good, if I can’t, then I have to stop playing. There’s always that option.
“I just thought I should find a solution. It was not a big injury that I could not find a solution for. When I feel it can’t be done, I will give up,” she added.
NO TO COACHING ROLES
Shedding light on the mental battle that she has had to overcome, Saina added: “Finally, I have to fight myself. The mind sometimes stops working after losing so many matches. It’s like ‘you’re losing, you’re losing’. But then I thought ‘it’s okay, you have to play for 21 points’.”
With the Paris Olympics a year away, Saina has a lot of catching up to do. Having deep runs at the highest levels can be a start for the star shuttler, who is hopeful of playing on the tour for a couple more years.
More importantly, Saina said she still has the hunger to win and create good memories on the tour while revealing she is not cut-out for coaching roles in the future.
“I want to win more. Winning is also nice. You want to keep achieving till you can. I don’t think I will become a coach. I don’t have that motivation or that feeling that I can become a coach.
“I want to play a few more years and let’s see how it goes,” she added.