London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal on Tuesday vowed to keep fighting as she believes she has the game to match the best in the business.
The former world No. 1, who has had a tough last few years mainly due to a knee injury, notched up a fighting 21-17, 12-21, 21-19 win over world No. 24 Mia Blichfeldt of Denmark in her opening match.
Saina began on a positive note and raced to an 11-6 lead in the opening game before closing it without much ado. However, Blichfeldt stayed in control throughout the second game and it looked like the momentum had shifted towards the Dane.
However, Saina showed that she had enough and more in her reserves as she went on the offensive to counter her opponent’s attacking strokes and came up with a deceptive net shot to close the match.
“I have always been a fighter, I like to challenge,” said the 32-year-old from Hyderabad.
“See, my mind sometimes stops working after losing so many matches. You are losing and losing but then today I was not thinking about match points. This was giving me tension in the last few matches because I was not pulling off matches.
“Confidence was lacking today (Tuesday) but I am happy I played without any knee issues. In the last few months, it was a gradual improvement. I worked on my stamina, and overall hitting game and everything went well today,” said Saina.
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Saina, whose best result in 2022 was a quarter-final finish at the Singapore Open, said it was important to win a first-round match to get the self-belief back.
“I was getting tough players in first round. I had to pull out such matches so that I can get confidence and play against the best players. At the moment, I can be good against the top players,” she added.
“She (Mia) has been playing well against top players. So, I think, with coverage, speed and shots I can match the top players.
“I have improved in my movement, and that made a lot of difference. I have been improving my knee, my body. The better my knees are, the better are my lunges.”
Asked about what has been toughest thing to come to terms with in the last few years, Saina said, “Nothing, I mean, although, people will speak about you not performing and it is natural. If I think about people then I have to stop playing badminton. I was just thinking about myself.
“I wanted to find a solution. The issue was small, it was not something I couldn’t fight out. I just thought it was not such a big injury that I couldn’t find a solution to. If I can then good, if I can’t, there is always the option of stopping badminton.”
Saina said she will quit the sport if her body fails to cope with the rigours.
“Players like to play, when the body says ‘no’ then you have to stop. There are some players who feel they have achieved enough, they stop but otherwise you always feel like doing well and when I feel I will also stop,” she said.
Asked if there is anything left to achieve, Saina replied, “Isn’t winning good? It is also nice.”
“See, I have no motivation or feeling that I can be a coach. I can see that in Guru (RMV Gurusaidutt), (Parupalli) Kashyap and (HS) Prannoy in future. They all have that coaching ability, but I don’t even have that. So, I thought, let me play some more years.”
She will now face China’s Chen Yufei in the next round. The Tokyo Olympic gold medallist defeated Michelle Li of Canada 21-19, 21-15.
(With inputs from Agencies)
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