HYDERABAD: It has been a while since PV Sindhu displaced Saina Nehwal as the reigning queen of badminton in India. Post her silver medal at the Rio Olympics, the 22-year-old has gone from strength to strength, establishing herself as one of the most potent forces in the sport. Saina, a former World No 1, on the other hand, has slipped out of the top-10 rankings.
The 28-year-old, though, has punctuated her struggle against injuries with some inspiring performances. The Commonwealth Games was one of those occasions. In a dream final against her younger Indian opponent, the World No 12 prevailed 21-18, 23-21 to become the first Indian to win two individual CWG gold medals in the sport (first one was in 2010). With that intensely fought victory, Saina elevated her head-to-head record against Sindhu to 4-1. Their last meeting in a final was at the 2017 nationals, with a similar result of 21-17, 27-25 in Saina’s favour. Talks of rivalry are bound to crop up in this situation. And they do not have any qualms in admitting that it does exist. “We have this on-court rivalry, but once the match is over we just focus on the next big tournament,” Sindhu quipped when asked whether a rivalry exists.
Visibly excited by her stupendous performance at CWG, where she also remained unbeaten in the mixed team event, Saina shed more light on the ‘rivalry’. “It is (a) challenge to play against someone you see every day. We train at the same academy. However, Gopi Sir (Pullela Gopichand) manages our schedules very well. He makes sure we have different sparring partners,” Saina, who returned to the Pullela Gopichand academy last September after spending three years under Vimal Kumar, said with a chuckle.
Gopi termed it as a ‘healthy rivalry’. “We have such rivalries between the doubles players too. If it helps in raising the performance-bar, then it is good only. It is a healthy rivalry,” Gopichand remarked.
The 64-shot rally in the second game, when Sindhu was leading 19-17, brought that rivalry to life when neither of them wanted to give up. Saina won the point in the end and she attributed it to her new-found fitness. “After a long time, I played so many matches and yet did not face any fitness problems. For that, I have to thank my physio Christopher Pedra,” she said. While fans would not mind Saina dominating Sindhu, the World No 3 will definitely have to figure out a way to solve the ‘Saina’ riddle.
Top pugilists to train at renowned centre in US
NEW DEHI: India’s top boxers, including MC Mary Kom, Manoj Kumar and L Sarita Devi, will be training at the world famous Michael Johnson Performance Center from May 1-17 as part of preparations for the upcoming events. Returning to India after their stellar show in in Gold Coast, the boxers were felicitated by the Boxing Federation of India on Tuesday. BFI president Ajay Singh divulged their immediate plans for the boxers and said that a squad of around 20 pugilists will be travelling to the US.