BADMINTON / ‘Focus is on tournaments, not rankings'
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, says that 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 touching reception on arrival at the Rajiv Gandhi Airport here on Tuesday and drove from there in an open top, flower-decked jeep in the company of her sister, Pullela Gopi Chand and BAI official Punnaiah Choudhary.
Saina said that it is definitely a nice feeling to be ranked World No. 3 but it also means lot of hard work and that there is a 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.
Areas to improve
“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 said while answering 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,” the champion shuttler from Hyderabad said.
“And do remember that no player can always keep winning these titles. There are bound to be 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, the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games later.
“Looking back, I do believe that joining Gopi Sir's academy was 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 at 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 the 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 said.
“Well, since the Chinese are busy with some club competitions back home, they did not make it to the Indonesian Open. But that is not my concern,” said Saina.
Saina also says 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.”
When asked whether she has now attained an 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 a 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.”
What did she miss during her moments of triumph in Singapore and Indonesia Opens? “My parents. I would have loved them to be there,” came the quick reply. “Otherwise, it has been a fantastic run which I thoroughly enjoyed.”