Saina Nehwal is upbeat. The 23-year-old world number three has the wherewithal to take on the Chinese checkers on her way to the World championships glory. She is resolved to unfurl her own bag of tricks at Guangzhou to solve the Chinese puzzle.
An injury free Saina is like a hungry tigress on the prowl. In top physical shape once again, the Hyderabadi star is bristling with confidence and is determined to add this honour too to her showcase.
This is her fourth appearance in the World Championships and also one of her best chances. “I’m feeling much better. I’m injury free and that has given me a lot of confidence,’’ said Saina, who was struggling with injuries and, as a result, the performance too dipped in the last one year.
Coach Pullela Gopichand says that Saina is back to her best. “She was down with injuries and that was the reason for her poor show. It is over now and the long rest has put her in top shape. Whenever Saina moves very well on the court, then it is a good sign,’’ he said.
Injuries, particularly the left toe fracture when she crashed against the door at her home, did put Saina on the backfoot. “I’m feeling much better and these things happen to sports persons, particularly when you play in so many events,’’ she said. Saina’s preparation for the championship is complete. That she has got a good draw works in her favour.
After a first round bye, she meets the winner of Olga Golvanova (Russia) and Alisia Zaitsova in the second round. Her first big opponent will be 15th seed Portip Burnaprasertsuk of Thailand and then a possible clash with eighth seed Minatsu Mitani of Japan. Mitani had beaten Saina in the French Open Super Series final last year.
“The competition is getting tougher. It is not about Chinese players only. We have players coming from Thailand, Chinese Taipei, Japan and others. It has become an open tournament and any player can win,’’ said Saina.
There is also a possible semifinal clash with top seed Li Xuerui of China. “There will be lot of home support for Li. I took part in the Super Series in 2011 in China and I got good results. The crowd supported both of us. It will be the same stadium where the Asian Games was played,” added the 23-year-old.
Saina knows there will be pressure but she just wants to take it one match at a time. “I want to focus for the championship. The World Championships is as big as Olympics,’’ she said.
The bronze medallist at the London Olympics says it is a tough road to become world number one.
“Every player fights for the top spot and there are so many Chinese players and they keep coming. So you need to be ready and keep fighting the new challenges to be in the top three,’’ she pointed out.
And to keep one’s winning form intact, Saina says they have to keep changing their strategies and also focus on fitness. “It all depends on the players and we have to improve our game but the most important thing is to be fit,’’ she signed off.