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'I will do well this year also'

Last updated on: February 8, 2011 15:00 IST

'I will do well this year also'

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Bikash Mohapatra

It is easy, they say, for a player to attain success. But it is difficult to maintain the same level over a period of time. For, consistency doesn't come with a guarantee card. It requires tremendous effort and sacrifice on part of the player. And even a slight loss of focus can lead to disastrous consequences.

Many players have struggled to follow up a spectacular season and have buckled under the weight of expectations.

Saina Nehwal could face a similar predicament this year.

To say that the Hyderabadi shuttler had an outstanding 2010 would tantamount to committing harakiri. Her results provide ample testimony of the rapid strides she made on court last year.

If the three Super Series wins -- at Singapore, Indonesia and Hong Kong -- propelled her to a career-high ranking of No 2, then the gold medal win at the Commonwealth Games in Delhiwas like the icing on the cake.

However, it is how well she performs this year that will determine her candidature as a player for the future.

And Saina is very well aware of that.

"Last year's results were quite good and I am very happy with the improvement in my game in the last five-six months," she said, adding, "My injury meant I couldn't compete in two-three tournaments and, consequently, my ranking has dropped.

"But I am high on confidence and I will do well this year also."


Image: Saina Nehwal

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'My preparation was not good enough'

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Saina's start to the 2011 season was anything but memorable -- a second round defeat at the hands of Japan's Sayaka Sato in the Korean Super Series (badminton's first million-dollar tournament) was a dampener by all means.

However, to be fair, she is yet to recover from her injury.

"I am not fully fit," she said, adding, "actually I tried to play the tournament (in Korea) as I was feeling better.

"However, I couldn't train for five weeks because of the pain, and just prepared for a week before playing in the tournament.

"Considering that, I think I played quite well. Only my preparation was not good enough."


Image: Saina Nehwal

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'Target for this year is to do well against all top players'

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With the prestigious All-England tournament just weeks away (March 8-13), Saina is very much aware what needs to be done.

"I think attaining match fitness will take time, as I am going to play the next two weeks with a taped ankle," she explained, adding, "only a couple of weeks before the All-England will the tape go off.

"So, hopefully, I should be fully fit before the All-England, and that is vital considering I play in the Swiss Open immediately after."

Saina made it to the last four at Birmingham last year, losing to eventual champion Tine Baun of Denmark. No wonder she has high hopes for the upcoming tournament as well.

"I hope to get back to the courts soon and do well in the All-England," she admitted, before outlining her plan for the year.

"This year will be crucial as the Chinese will be playing all the tournaments, as the new rule says everyone has to play in all major tournaments," explained Saina.

"So it is going to be tougher but I hope to do well amidst all the competition.  The target for this year in that sense will be to do well against all the top players."


Image: Saina Nehwal

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'Staying away from injury is my main concern'

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Much of the youngster's success last year could be attributed to some careful planning and proper selection of tournaments (to play).

However, Saina was quick to explain that she won't be following similar strategy this year.

"I don't think it is needed this year so much as there are no bigger events like the Commonwealth Games or the Asiad," she said, adding, "I think the World Championships is the only big tournament this year. And I hope to do well in that.

"I can play in all the Super Series events just to maintain my ranking and get confidence while also trying to get into the best possible shape for next year, keeping in mind the Olympic Games."

Since she mentioned the Olympics, it was imperative to ask if she has started thinking of the same, considering she had missed out on a medal at Beijing, losing in the last eight.

"There's a lot of time left for the London Olympics, 18 months to be precise. I don't need to prepare in advance," she explained. "One month of preparation will be more than enough for a big tournament like that.

"Till then I just have to work on my fitness. Staying away from injury is in any case my main concern."


Image: Saina Nehwal

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'I love winning more than getting to the No 1 position'

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Five weeks shy of 21, Saina is far more mature than others in the same age bracket. She is much aware of the burden of expectations.

Having reached as high as No 2, it is palpable that her fans expect her to attain the top spot as soon as possible. Asked about that and she gave a measured reply.

"It is important that I stay fit and win tournaments. You can only become No 1 by winning tournaments.

"In any case, I love winning more than getting to the No 1 position."

So, is there a strategy that she has in mind to reach the summit?

"I hope to recover soon and try and win as many titles as possible," explained Saina. "If I continue doing that, the top spot won't be far away," she added.


Image: Saina Nehwal

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