After Saina Nehwal's stunning performances on the international circuit which made her the World No. 3 the other day, the rest of the Indians, especially the girls, have taken a huge leap in confidence.
The Saina effect on Indian badminton is clearly visible for all to see.
“We are all pumped up; Saina's performances have been very inspiring,” says Air India's Saili Rane, one of the country's top juniors and the girls' top seed at the United India Insurance-RSC all-India junior ranking tournament here.
“She is beating the top Chinese players, all of us know that we can do it too if we keep working harder.”
Kerala's rising star Daya Elsa Jacob, the junior girls winner at last week's Union Bank all-India event in Bangalore, feels Saina's three international titles on the trot have made a big difference to her life.
“Saina's victories have something huge about them. She has been beating the world's biggest players. Now we know, we are not inferior to them in any way,” says Daya, who is also the niece of former men's national champion George Thomas. “She is a good ‘catcher', she doesn't give up. A few years ago, we used to hear that Indians were so many years behind the Chinese. Now, we are with them.”
“The fear of the Chinese is surely fading,” says National coach P. Gopi Chand, the former All England champion who trains Saina at his academy in Hyderabad. “I feel our players' confidence has gone up. You see some very good performances in juniors and sub-juniors. There is a renewed confidence in all group of players, in singles and doubles. But dominating the Chinese will take some more time.”
After shocking some of the planet's best Chinese stars, including World champion Lu Lan in the recent Singapore Super Series, Saina said that the world's best players would now be watching her very closely, looking out for chinks in her game.
The Indian girls have been watching her closely too and taking down fast notes.
The 20-year-old Hyderabad wonder's performances have also made her a big hit abroad.
“In foreign tournaments, all the countries except China are now supporting and cheering Saina,” says Punnaiah Choudhary, the Badminton Association of India's Secretary (Events) and the AP Badminton Association Secretary.
“The world is looking at Saina to kill the Chinese. They have been searching for years, looking for somebody to beat the Chinese. Now, they have got Saina.”
Keywords: Saina Nehwal