Saina faces Sapsiree in Opener
A confident Saina Nehwal sets off her new year journey with an air of optimism. Having played one of the best badminton of her career so far last year in which she bagged two Super Series titles and more importantly, a bronze medal in the London Olympics, 21-year-old Saina would be eyeing the All England and World Championship honours this year. “I had a very good season last year. It boosted my confidence. The All-England and World Championship will be my top priorities this year,” said Saina.
Saina emerged champion in the Swiss Open Grand Prix, the Thailand Open Grand Prix, the Indonesian Open Super Series Premier Open and Denmark Open Super Series Premier Open tournaments. She won back-to-back titles at Thailand and Indonesian tournaments.
It was a year when she even beat the top Chinese players like Li Xureui, Wang Shixian and Yihan Shixian in the Super Series tournaments. “It is always a challenge to beat them. The Chinese are always a strong badminton nation. We have to find new ways to beat them for they are still a feared lot,’’ she said.
The World number three will begin this year’s campaign with Korean Open Super Series Premier tournament. The Hyderabad-based Saina takes on Sapsiree Taerattanachai of Thailand in the first round on Tuesday.
Placed in the top half, she is expected to meet promising Ratchanok Inatanon of Thailand in the quarterfinals and then a possible semifinal clash with top seed Li Xuerui of China.
“This is a year where I have to play consistently to be at the top. You can become world number one or two but it all depends on your hard work, your game and the number of victories. Then you will be the best. The world number one and two (Yihan and Xuerui) are always consistent throughout the year,” said Saina, who added the key to her success would be on her fitness.
“It is important to be injuryfree. Of course, I’m working on fitness, speed and endurance,’’ she said.
Meanwhile the rising PV Sindhu, who rose to break into top 20 last year, faces tough Lendaweni Fanetri of Indonesia in the first round. She then clashes with top seed Xuerui. In the men’s section world number 14 Parupalli Kashyap takes on Rajiv Ouseph of England in the first round.