After ruling the National badminton scene for six years, Olympic bronze medallist Saina Nehwal will now cede some limelight to rising star P.V. Sindhu, whose bronze medal winning feat in the just-concluded World championship has made their impending contest in the inaugural Indian Badminton League (IBL) the most talked-about topic.
Saina, an icon, and Sindhu, one in the making, both hailing from Hyderabad, both products of the Gopi Chand Academy, will meet each other in the women’s singles match when Hyderabad Hotshots take on Awadhe Warriors here on Thursday.
Since the time she emerged a teenage sensation, Saina has been the toast of the nation for her achievements all over the globe, including the podium finish in the London Olympics. Eighteen-year-old Sindhu, who had been progressing well at the junior level, graduated to the elite strata of the sport in style. The Malaysian Open Grand Prix title and the Worlds medal this year are testimony to her talent.
Saina plays down any suggestion that her supremacy is being challenged by Sindhu. “We have not been playing in international matches. But we have been playing at the academy. There is nothing new for me. People are looking forward to this because it is being held outside,” Saina said.
The 23-year-old World No. 3, who is likely to be joined by Sindhu in the top-10 of international ranking, observed, “I think for the last six years I have been playing alone. So, even that stage has crossed. I am not feeling anything. I am happy everyone is doing well and Indian badminton is moving forward.”
“I was always confident. I think now they (the up and coming players) are showing the belief.
Sindhu and Kashyap have already done that and the next player is Gurusaidutt. Then there is Ajay Jayaram and K. Srikanth. Most of them are in top 30. I hope the way Chinese are having six-seven players at top 10, we too will have players in the top bracket.”
Sindhu, basking in her glory in the Worlds and being picked for the Arjuna Award, was thrilled to share the space with Saina.
For Sindhu, the success was yet to sink in. “It was my first World championship and for me beating two Chinese players in a row was a great thing. I am really happy to have got the bronze medal. I am glad that my name has been recommended for the Arjuna Award.”
Nevertheless, she was ready for the challenge in the IBL. “I am looking forward to giving my best against Saina. This format is very exciting and different. I think it is going to be a good show and everyone will enjoy the tournament,” said Sindhu.