Saina Nehwal, who had a dream run winning three international titles, including the Singapore Open and the Indonesian Open Super Series titles, in the last three weeks, said she can become the World No. 1 but the focus right now has to be on winning tournaments and not on rankings.
The 20-year-old star player was accorded a warm reception on arrival at the Rajiv Gandhi Airport here on Tuesday. She drove from there in an open top, flower-decked jeep in the company of her sister, Pullela Gopi Chand and BAI official Punnaiah Choudhary.
The World No. 3 from India, said it is nice to be ranked World No.3 but it also means lot of hard work and the need to keep improving.
“Yes, I am aware that I will be the most studied player now. But, it doesn’t mean that I will be shying away from new strategies,” she said.
“There are areas like my defence which I need to improve in the days to come. The fitness level has to be really good. The challenges are bound to be tougher especially after winning these titles,” Saina explained to a query.
“It is tough to maintain these rankings for they mean a lot to you as a player too. It is a demanding task. The focus now shifts to the World Championship in Paris next month. It is not going to be easy anyway,” the champion shuttler from Hyderabad pointed out.
“And do remember that no player can always keep winning these titles. There are bound to ups and downs. I only pray that I will be injury-free now to focus on the World Championship and the other two big events Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games later,” she pointed out.
Laurels to Gopichand academy
“Looking back I do believe that joining Gopi Sir’s Academy is one of the turning points of my career. Things have changed so much in terms of my game and this is the same with most of the youngsters training here now,” Saina said about her training scheduled in the Gopi Chand Academy here.
“I am really thankful to Gopi Sir for the wonderful support he has been extending over the years and shaping me into a champion player,” she added.
Absence of Chinese
In a very diplomatic manner, Saina suggested that Chinese not taking part in the Indonesian Open should not take the sheen away from her triumph.
“It is an acknowledged fact that there many youngsters who are really good at the international level. Proof of that was evident the way Sayaka Sato played in the Indonesian Open final against me,” she explained. “Well, since Chinese are busy with some club competitions back home, they did not make it to the Indonesian Open. But that is not my concern,” she said.
Saina also said that she is no mood to push herself too far to be the World No. 1 by taking part in too many events. “We will plan it in such a way we do achieve our goals in a systematic manner,” she added.
Questioned whether she is now attained the iconic status in Indian sport after the recent wins, Saina refused to believe so. “I only hope that these good things continue. Yes, definitely, there is lot more recognition now wherever I go. I am happy with this and I don’t want any comparisons,” she said. “I just want to make my country proud with my achievements,” she insisted.
What did she miss during her moments of triumph in Singapore and Indonesia Opens? “My parents. I would have loved them to be there,” flash came the reply. “Otherwise, it has been a fantastic run,” she added.
For his part, chief national coach and Saina’s mentor, Pullela Gopi Chand, felt that it was an incredible achievement to win two back-to-back Super Series titles. “This is a huge task for any player and I am glad that Saina has been improving with each tournament,” he said.
Saina thanked the sponsors, BAI, APBA and the State Government and the fans for their support.
“I am thankful to the honourable Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and the Chief Ministers of AP and Haryana and to the Union Sports Minister for their nice gestures to greet me on winning these titles,” Saina signed off before being leaving the venue which changed the course of her career.