New Delhi, May 5 (IANS) India’s veteran shuttler Saina Nehwal believes she can still reach higher levels and achieve greater things as she feels she has got rid of the physical issues that were bogging her over the past couple of years.
The 2012 Olympic medallist was inconsistent in the past couple of years, thanks to the physical troubles, especially failing to get into full rhythm after undergoing a knee surgery in August 2016, days after the Rio Olympic Games.
However, Saina’s recent form saw her overcome obstacles on and off the court. The two-time World Championship medallist credits her recent strong fitness to the strength and conditioning exercises she has undergone in the past 45 days with physio Christopher Pedra, who joined the Indian after the Indonesia Open.
In April, Saina played a big role in India’s gold medal triumph in the mixed team competition of the Commonwealth Games (CWG) in Gold Coast, Australia in the first and second weeks of April. The 28-year-old also got the gold medal in the women’s singles contest as she defeated compatriot P.V. Sindhu in the final.
Saina then grabbed her third Asian Championship bronze medal with a semi-final appearance at Wuhan, China on Saturday.
“It is about working hard. You see (tennis legends) Serena Williams and Roger Federer still doing extremely well at the higher levels. I have that never give up attitude — which of course helps,” she said on the sidelines of the Badminton Association of India (BAI)’s felicitation ceremony of the CWG medallists.
“Moreover when you feel well, the court becomes really easier. Now I have one of the best physios in Christopher Pedra. He has been extremely valuable. I can feel the difference,” she added.
“There were hip and knee issues from which I was struggling to come out of. Now there is a lot of improvement on my strengths. I am moving much easily on the court. There were some weaker areas in my legs on which he has worked. Now there are less niggles.”
Asked about her secret in handling pressure for such a long time, Saina said: “It is important to be positive when you play. It is not a burden. I have the attitude of giving my best and winning. I have been playing for so many years.
“I believe I can pull off 90 per cent of the matches. It is not easy to take the pressure. I always give my best — sometimes I lose as well. I try to relax as much as possible.
“All opponents are dangerous. I have a good record against most of them. I have issues against some of the players as well. I keep working on the areas I feel. Always be careful and alert.”
One opponent that has been regularly getting the better of Saina is Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying. Saina’s 25-27, 19-21 loss in 45 minutes in the semi-final in the Asia Championships was her ninth on the trot against Tai, who now has taken a 11-5 lead in the head-to-head record against the Indian veteran.
Saina said that she needs to get better in order to beat world No.2 from Chinese Taipei.
So what makes Tai such a ferocious opponent? Saina answered: “She was good with her hand and strokes, the only thing she had to do well was improve on her fitness. She has done that. That is working well for her. Due to her incredible confidence, thanks to the so many wins she has posted in the last one and half years, she has been coming out on top even in difficult moments.”
Saina then talked about her loss in Wuhan. “It was a matter of last two points. I was leading both the games. I should have been more alert. Tai certainly changed the game in the last two points. When you play someone like her, she is really smart and you have to be alert with her in the last few moments,” she said.
“All of us have been struggling against her. She has every shot as a deceptive shot. She will make you mad at any point of time. Her consistent hand-stopping movement tires you down in two games and she knows that the third game is her strength because of her fitness level.”