YOUNG LIKE US Badminton’s upcoming star, Saina Nehwal, has the potential to break into the top ten. K. Keerthivasan
Amidst her hectic schedule, if at all Indian badminton star Saina Nehwal does get to squeeze time to watch any other sport, she says she would like to see Roger Federer play. Nehwal adores the Swiss’ style and approach. Saina says she loves the World #1’s ease with which he selects his shots and his unruffled on-court demeanour. “It’s so cool,” she says.However, the Beijing Olympics does give her a chance to watch in flesh and blood, her superhero compete. “If I finish my matches early, and if the (tennis) venue is nearby, I will surely go,” she says. Saina knows her priority. At the moment, she is focussing all her energies for the quadrennial event, with the All-England champion and National coach Pullela Gopi Chand overseeing her training.
The reigning National champion, aged 18 years, is in the best form of her life. The recent performances in the Singapore Super Series (reaching the semi-finals) and the Thailand Open Grand Prix (entering the quarterfinals) suggest that Saina could possibly indeed break into the top 10 in the near future. “I have never crossed the second round of a Super Series before. It’s unbelievable. I have gained a lot of confidence,” says Saina, who has moved up to a career best ranking of 18 in the world.The close matches she lost to Hong Kong’s Mi Zhou in the semi-finals of the Singapore Super Series and her quarterfinal loss to World #1 Xie Xingfang in the Thailand Grand Prix has given her a mountain of self-belief, a trait she already has in abundance. The difference between the Chinese and the Indians, says Saina, lies in not being physically strong but in being mentally prepared. “You can beat them.”
Saina attributes her physique to playing many sports and games including cricket and athletics in her formative years. She admits, though she hardly has time to indulge in any sporting activity other than badminton, she likes to read and listen to Hindi songs. As a result, she has no close friends. “I am not friends with any of the players. I am reserved and I prefer to keep to myself. In case, I want to confide, I have my parents (former State badminton players) and Gopi Sir,” says Saina.For Saina, Olympics is the biggest dream that has turned into a reality. “I never thought it will come so early in my life. I am keen to give it my best. I don’t want to put pressure on myself. I’d like to take one match at a time. It all depends on the draw,” says the Hyderabad lass. It’s a different matter that Saina has the habit of exceeding all expectations.
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