In an effort to be in the be at her 100% at next year’s Olympics, Saina Nehwal has been working on fitness even more as she believes the badminton competition at Tokyo 2020 will be tougher than the last three Games.
“Yes, it [competition in 2020 Olympics] will be much tougher. The Chinese shuttlers are playing really well. More than them, a lot of other girls are playing really well. It is going to be very tough,” Nehwal told PTI.
“But as of now, I’m not thinking about Olympics or about how I will qualify for it. I am thinking more about doing well in tournaments, improving my game and keeping myself injury free and fit,” she added.
The former world No 1 has been troubled by injuries for the last few years, starting from her her knee surgery in 2016, which affected her performance at Rio 2016.
For India to send two shuttlers in Tokyo Olympics women’s singles, both of them will have to be inside top 16 in the world rankings which will be released after the end of qualification period on April 30, 2020.
Tokyo Games will be her fourth Olympics, having represented the country in 2008, 2012 and 2016. She reached the quarterfinals in 2008, won a bronze in 2012 and crashed out in group stages in 2016 when she played with a knee inflammation.
Nehwal skipped the India Open in New Delhi after she developed pancreas infection during the All England Championships earlier this month.
“I am coming out of a pancreas infection and I am planning to play Malaysia Open next week. Let’s see how it happens,” she said.
Asked if she is happy with what has panned out after the surgery in 2016, she said, “I am fighting, trying to improve my game and win as many matches as possible. That is what I can do and the rest I don’t know, because I cannot predict results.
“I’m happy I am being able to win a few tournaments. I did well in CWG [won gold], Asian Games [bronze], Denmark Open finalist and won in Indonesia [Indonesia Masters this year)] There were few good results that keep me inspiring and motivating to continue to doing well. The rest I want to take care of my health, improve my game and think of winning my next tournament.”
The cramped badminton calendar following the Badminton World Federation’s decision, which requires top players to feature in at least 12 out of 15 tournaments a year, has been criticised by many shuttlers.
Nehwal said she had also taken up the issue with the global governing body but to no avail.
“Our body cannot take so many tournaments in a year. Finally, it is a body and not a machine, so it is tough but you have to find ways to be fit for most of tournaments. We told last year that the calendar can be smaller and money can be bigger in these tournaments. Make it like tennis, like how they have four grand slams,” she said.
“I don’t know why BWF is busy doing these things, different tournaments. Being a player we don’t have the time to sit and speak about it often. We can only focus on the next tournament. Last year we tried to speak in December as well but nothing changed, so we have to go with the routine.”
Asked how her husband P Kashyap sitting at the coach’s corner in recent tournaments different from national coach Pullela Gopichand, Saina said, “Both of them are making really good plans for me. Sometimes you are more comfortable with a friend. Kashyap can be a bit more strict and hard on me because Gopi sir is basically quiet and simple on the court.
“Kashyap knows at the moment I am a little bit scared sometimes to move around after my surgery, sometimes I feel a little bit tense to move. With the way he [Kashyap] can shout at me and make me play, I feel confident.”
She also said that the move to be with Kashyap as coach has helped her a lot in recent times.
“I am being able to take some good tips from Kashyap in the last 4-5 months. It has helped my game a bit here and there. I just told Gopi sir that let him help me for few more months and we will see how it changes. Change is always helpful, we should keep on changing. That is why he is sitting there.”
With inputs from PTI