Hyderabad: Hard work, and more hard work, laced with aggression. That is Saina Nehwal’s mantra for success. The all-conquering Hyderabad shuttler, who is on a high after winning the Australian Open, now shifts her focus to the Olympics where she will look to better the bronze medal which she won in 2012.
“I would rate myself as the most hard-working player but technically I still need to improve a lot. I was never very talented so I worked extra hard to succeed, and I would want to keep working hard,” Saina said here on Tuesday.
Saina said she is equal parts releived and thrilled about the Australian Open victory — her first title in 14 months. “I’m really happy. The last title I won was in March last year when I lifted the India Open trophy. This is all the more satisfying because I am coming back from a serious injury to my ankle. So it was very tough. Also, the Olympics are coming up so I really wanted a win as it would boost my confidence. Now I just hope I remain injury free before the Olympics,” she said, adding it will not be easy to win a medal at the Olympics. she however promised to do her best to make that dream a reality.
“Every player at the Olympics will want to win a medal. It’s a very tough competition. I will give my best there and I hope to come back with a medal. It is not going to be easy.”
One of the points in her favour is her support staff. “Vimal sir is helping me a lot. Coach Umendra Rana, who accompanied me to Australia, has also been very helpful. They’re both focusing on improving my strokes. Because I was recovering from my injury, my movements had become sluggish, and I was not able to play my strokes properly. But I’m back to my best now. I was on top of my game in Australia; I hit a lot of smashes,” Saina said.
It came as a surprise to many, including Saina herself, at just how aggressive she was in Australia. It turns out Saina got inspired by India’s Test captain Virat Kohli.
“Virat has been playing extremely well lately. The more aggressive one is, the better one performs. That’s what Virat has been doing. In fact, I was so aggressive in Australia I was surprised. I hadn’t done that in a long time. I hope to maintain this aggression in the future.”
Ever since she came back from injry, winning was the furthest thing on her mind, says Saina. “I wasn’t expecting to win the Australian Open at all,” Saina said, adding: “I just wanted to play well. It was more important for me to play do — not just win — against all the quality players like Ratchanok (Intanon) or Wang (Yihan). I know I’ll run into them at the Olympics so I was just focused on playing well against them.” Saina will now head back to her training base in Bengaluru where, for the coming month, she will be put through her paces in preparation for Rio....