The defeat of Saina Nehwal in the recently concluded BWF Super Series badminton finals in China might have disappointed badminton buffs in the country, for it was the fourth loss in a final for the 21-year-old ace shuttler this season.

Is Saina lacking the killer instinct needed in a summit clash or is she being plagued by self-doubt? The World No. 4 player was quick to dismiss any such speculation. After her return from China, she responded to criticism with a “you can't always win. Actually, I am happy with the way I played this season. Making it to four finals after recovering from an ankle injury was not easy, and that I made it to the finals is itself a big plus. I hope to stay in good form next year also, which is a very crucial year for me”.

What Saina said makes sense, since the world scene in women's badminton is a fiercely competitive arena, with many players of equal calibre vying for the top slot and titles.

The very fact that an Indian has made it to the top rung, which was once solely dominated by the Chinese and Indonesians is a matter of joy and pride for India.

Saina, as a persona, may lack the glamour quotient of fellow Hyderabadi and tennis star Sania Mirza, but Saina's achievements are far bigger. A year ago, she was World No. 2, winning three back-to-back super series events on the trot. She is the best thing that has happened to Indian badminton, after ace players Prakash Padukone and Pullela Gopichand. And, if there's one player that the indomitable Chinese fear most, it is Saina Nehwal. A lot of credit for her rise should also go to her coach Gopichand for making her such a world beater.

The former national coach and national champion U. Vimal Kumar felt that there is no need to read too much into Saina's fall in the last few tournaments. “If you look at her performance, she has beaten the best. Luck was not on her side, for she has no lack of talent, technique or the will to win. In fact, she has those qualities in plenty,” he said.

The way ahead

Talking about the way ahead, the astute coach says, “What we need to look at is the 2012 season, which is also the year when the Olympics will take place. How Saina is going to plan and perform after April and May will have a large bearing on her chances at the Games. If she does well in that phase, I am sure that she will be among the front runners for a medal at the Olympics.”

The country has huge expectations from Saina and, well she knows it. She has vowed to work hard to achieve that goal. There is enough time to work on her fitness and get into battle-ready mode. The best is yet to come from Saina.

Keywords: Saina Nehwal

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