Confident as ever, Saina Nehwal is looking to do the country proud in the World championship in Paris in August. But she realises that the three recent titles have brought enormous pressure of expectations from the country on her.

“The people of the country are expecting a lot from me in the World championship and I am ready for the challenge. The Chinese girls will be there and I think, they are beatable,” said the world number three who won the Indian Open, Singapore Open and retained the Indonesian Open recently in the absence of the leading Chinese girls.

“I am working hard on every aspect of my game and feel confident ahead of the World championship,” said the Hyderabad girl on Tuesday while talking to mediapersons on the sidelines of a function organised by the Badminton Association of India to felicitate her on the recent string of success.

Premier Brands, the sponsor of the National team, presented the 20-year-old Saina with twenty 24-carat gold coins. The company announced that Saina would be presented 101 gold coins if she did well at the World championship.

“I am not thinking about the rankings. My goal is to train hard and do well in the tournaments. My focus is on the World championship, the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games this year. I am keen to improve my game as I go along,” said Saina.

Named captain of the Indian squad for the World championship, Saina said, “as a captain I’ll have very little role since each player knows the job on hand. It is an individual sport and every player understands the importance of doing well in the World championship.”

Sania heads the team that includes Aditi Mutatkar, G. Jwala and Ashwini Ponnappa, Chetan Anand, P. Kashyap, Sanave Thomas, Roopesh Kumar and V. Diju.

Chief coach P. Gopi Chand was optimistic of not only Saina doing well in the World championship but also some of the other members of the team coming up with good finishes.

“A fit Chetan Anand is never too far from a good performance. The combination of Jwala-Diju will be in contention for a medal, given their capabilities. These days, I’ve stressed on the players taking rest ahead of the final training session for the World championship. I think, this is a very strong squad,” declared Gopi, who named China, Malaysia, Indonesia and Denmark as among the leading contenders.

Talking about Saina, Gopi said, “All the publicity that Saina and Indian badminton received recently has encouraged other players to give it all in order to achieve a higher level of performance. I think, it is a great sign.”

When asked whether Saina, irrespective of her rankings, was indeed the strongest non-Chinese in the world, Gopi said, “The top-eight players are all capable of winning any tournament. Saina is clearly among the contenders for a medal. Significantly, Saina believes she has a good chance of beating the leading Chinese.”

And what could one expect when Saina came up against the well-trained Chinese? “You’ll see her defending a lot more. She will be putting back a lot more shuttles into play, prolong the rallies and wait for her chance to finish the point. She has the endurance to nullify the speed factor which is the forte of the Chinese,” explained Gopi.

Keywords: Saina Nehwal

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