Rising star Saina Nehwal has the talent to be the number one woman shuttler in the world but the road to the pinnacle will be a difficult one, says former Asian badminton champion Dinesh Khanna.
“Saina is a hard working and committed player and she has done extremely well for India. She has age on her side and is very much capable of being the number one in the world,” Khanna said.
“But the road to the top will be difficult because there is not much difference among the top 10 players and there are many players who are as talented as she is,” he added.
Following her semifinal appearance in the All-England Super Series, Saina became the first Indian woman player to reach the top five world ranking even though skipping the Swiss Open saw her slip to the number six.
The Hyderabadi will next participate in the Asian Badminton Championship here from April 12-18 and Khanna hoped with luck on her side, Saina can make it to the finals here.
“She has done really well in the recent tournaments like All-England and Uber Cup. So she carries a lot of hopes whenever she plays. There is no class difference between her and the best and with a bit of luck and home advantage, she can make it to the semifinals,” said Khanna.
Asked about the upcoming talents, Khanna singled out PV Sindhu for special praise.
“Beside Saina, there are a couple of women players who are doing well like Trupti (Murgunde), Sayali (Gokhale) but I think PV Sindhu is one young talent, which has to be watched out. She has shown a lot of improvement in the last one year.
“She is still young and has a good game and with (Pullela) Gopichand around, she is in safe hands. I hope she does well for India,” said the 1965 Arjuna awardee.
Khanna, however, doesn’t have high hopes from the men’s singles players and said if the draw is in their favour and one of them can reach the final four, he would be satisfied.
“Chetan (Anand) has done well and during the Thomas Cup we have seen Anup (Sridhar), P Kashyap and (Aravind) Bhat putting up superb performances. Kashyap is still improving and Anup had chronic injuries but in the last six months, he has tried to regain his form.
“Even Sai Preneeth, RMV Sai Guru Dutt are also playing well. But it will depend on the draw. If they get a favourable draw and one of them can make it to the semis, I think that would be satisfactory,” he said.
Khanna, however, expects the mixed doubles pairs of Jwala Gutta and V Diju and the men’s pair of Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas to do well.