Monday, April 22, 2013

Saina Nehwal eyes capital gain at India Open

The India Open has indeed come a long way. Twenty-six years after it was first held, the tournament was accorded 'Grand Prix Gold' status in 2007. And in 2011, the country's most prestigious badminton event was included in the 'Super Series' category. For all you tennis fans out there, this tourney is as reputable as an ATP Masters 1000 event.

All eyes will, expectedly, be on Saina Nehwal as the tourney starts in the Capital on Tuesday. Till two years ago, the Hyderabadi was just another promising talent. But this time, she will step into the Siri Fort Complex as the world's second-best player. And don't forget she's an Olympic medallist too.

Nehwal was centre of attraction at the official press conference on Monday. The 23-year-old has been named the top seed but this will, in no way, guarantee her an easy route to her maiden title in New Delhi.

What we are going to see, though, is a fitter, stronger Nehwal. "I am feeling much better now. I gave myself a two-week break before resuming training at the beginning of this month. And yes, I will not tape my knee here," Nehwal told dna.

For the record, she made the semifinals of the All England Championships and the Swiss Open in March before getting injured. "Injuries are part and parcel of our lives as we play in so many tournaments. We have to be careful with injuries and our fitness."

Nehwal was given top billing in 2011, but she lost in the first round. Last year, she was seeded third and lost in the second round. "I want to give it my best shot. Being top seed and playing in front of my home crowd, everyone expects me to win. In the first round, I face an Indonesian (Belaetrix Manuputi). She is quite good. I beat her in the second round of the All England. I will try my best and live up to the expectations," she said.

Asked about the possibility of a Nehwal-Sindhu clash in the quarterfinals, the London Olympics bronze medallist said, "It will be an interesting match. Not often do you see Indians facing each other (in a Super Series). More than us, Gopi sir (national coach P Gopichand) will be feeling the tension," she giggled. After all, both players train at his academy!

Nehwal gave a thumbs-up to the Badminton World Federation's plans to introduce the review system. "Let's see when it is introduced. Badminton is a fast-paced game. There are many (incorrect) line calls, sometimes we don't like them. The review system will be good for the game," she said. There will be no review system here, though. The main round begins on Wednesday and the finals will be held on Sunday.

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