Saina needs a month to regain full fitness

Saina needs a month to regain full fitness

TOUGH ROAD AHEAD Slowly finding her way back from injury, Saina Nehwal says she would be selective of tournaments this season. DH PHOTO

After a lukewarm response on the opening two days of the Premier Badminton League action here, fans packed the Sree Kanteerava Stadium on Wednesday. Their decision to skip their regular afternoon activities was vindicated when PV Sindhu dished out a commanding performance.

The fans then stayed back, primarily to watch another of their favourites, Saina Nehwal, play. Although the young Sindhu has stolen a march over Saina in recent times, she still remains a major fan favourite. The empty seats soon after her loss to Zhang Beiwen was an indication of her popularity.

Saina, returning to the circuit after being plagued by a shin injury towards the end of 2018, didn’t play the opening three games for her franchise North Eastern Warriors. In the next three matches, she’s looked far from her best and the 28-year-old said she needs another month to regain full fitness. 

“Whatever I could do in the last seven-eight days, I have tried my level best. It’s not easy to be 20-30 percent fit and play matches. But I’m happy that I could pull off one game against Zhang Beiwen and Sindhu. That shows I’m on the right track,” Saina said during an interaction with media.

“I just played Sindhu after maybe two days of practice — it’s not easy to play suddenly. I require more time. Maybe another month or something before I’m fully fit. In the meantime, I should keep playing matches to stay in the rhythm. Let’s see how it is in Malaysia and Indonesia — there won’t be much of a difference. Whatever I can do, I’ll do my best.”

This year being an Olympic qualification one is very important for shuttlers and the 28-year-old Saina said she would be selective of her schedule in order to keep herself healthy and fresh. “The next year’s an Olympic year, so the focus will be on doing well in a few tournaments. I cannot try to challenge myself throughout the year. Whatever tournaments I feel are important, I will give my best there. This month I’m planning to play in Malaysia and Indonesia. After that, let’s see how it goes. It’s going to be tough. We have 18-19 tournaments.”

Last year was a mixed one for Saina, the former World No 1 who has now slipped to 9. While she reclaimed the Commonwealth Games gold, downing Sindhu in an emotional final, she also suffered some chastening defeats at the hands of World No 1 Tai Tzu Ying. She lost to the Chinese Taipei star on all six occasions, including two finals.

Saina felt cracking Tai’s code is extremely difficult. “It’s not easy to break someone who’s so solid. She’s so good with strokes, technique, movements. She’s an overall player. She’s like Roger Federer (of badminton). It’s not easy to beat her unless she’s injured or is having a bad day.”

Wins and losses aside, Saina ended up being the talk of the town in December when she decided to wed Parupalli Kashyap. Despite that, the Hyderabadi said she’s still hungry for success. “Marriage has changed nothing. There’s a time for everything and I thought that’s the time for marriage. Unfortunately, I got injured at the end of the year. Otherwise, I was going really well with the kind of game I was playing. It was very, very close matches.”

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