A four-year wait for the Rio Olympics ended in tears for Saina Nehwal after a knee injury got her eliminated in the early rounds. A long rehab process, some serious career introspection, a hesitant comeback and a title in January have seen the ace return to the top level badminton on her own terms.
But now, it’s time for the All England Championships; the questions are being thrown at her, the spotlight is firmly back on Saina. Will she be able to compete among the best, once again?
In an interview with PTI, Saina was confident about her road forward:
Saina NehwalMy target is to be one of the best badminton players in the world and facing strong opposition from best players is the real enjoyment of playing badminton. I was runners-up in 2015 All England Championship but facing Carolina (Marin) was a very big task. She overpowered me and won the title. I am fine and well-trained now so I am ready to face my opponents.
Left heart-broken after a knee problem scuttled her Rio Olympic plans, Saina showed tremendous mental fortitude to recover well and resume competitive badminton in November, despite going through a surgery in August.
The 26-year-old participated in three tournaments -- China, Hong Kong and Macau -- last year before competing at the Premier Badminton League for Awadhe Warriors in January.
The Hyderabadi, who was still in the process of strengthening her knee, then notched up a stunning title win at the Malaysia Masters Grand Prix Gold to begin the season on a positive note.
Saina then decided to skip the Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold in Lucknow, saying she needed more time to be fully fit ahead of the Super Series events which start with the All England at Birmingham on March 7.
Saina NehwalI did not have enough time to train hard before the Malaysia Masters. But now I am fit, I have no injury issues. Practising hard under the watchful eyes of my coach for at least a fortnight prior to major tournaments is the most optimal time.
The London Olympics bronze-medallist is set to lock horns with defending Champion Nozomi Okuhara of Japan in the opening round. Okuhara is nursing a shoulder injury and last played in November where she withdrew half-way through her first round encounter.
Saina NehwalThe draw is good. I guess it is not an issue who I am facing, it is all about giving your best out of the best learning. Let us see how the matches go.