SAINA NEHWAL is aware that qualifying for the Paris Olympics will be “tough” for her but the injury-ravaged Indian shuttler has no plans to quit badminton.
Laid low by a spate of injuries, including a recurring knee issue, the 33-year-old from Hyderabad has found it tough to stay fit to consistently turn up at the BWF World Tour events. Her ranking has plummeted to number 55 in the world.
“I get inflammation in my knee whenever I train for an hour or two. I am not able to bend my knee so a second session of training is not possible. The doctors have given me a couple of injection. Of course the Olympics is near and it is tough (to qualify),” Nehwal said. “But I am trying my level best to comeback. The physios are helping me but if the inflammation doesn’t reduce, it will take little more time to recover. I also don’t want to play halfheartedly and results will also not come.
“If you are trying to compete against An Seyoung, or Tai Tzu Ying or Akane (Yamaguchi), it won’t happen with just one hour of training. The level has improved so much. So when you are playing such high level players, you need a high level game.”
The former world number 1 last played at the Singapore Open in June.
It was her sixth tournament of the season. She managed just one quarterfinal finish in 14 events in 2022, while a semifinal finish at Orleans Masters was her best performance in eight events in 2021.
“If you are thinking about the knee showing inflammation after a training, then in tournament also if it shows up after one round, then it will be a negative sign.
“I am trying to sort out that first. Playing is easy, to maintain the body, to not have any niggles is what is important. Hopefully with the guidance of physios and Dr Dinshaw Pardiwala, let’s see how I recover and comeback. It all depends on practice.”
The two-time world championships medallist last won a title in January 2019 at the Malaysia Masters. While knee has been a recurring issue, she also had problems with groin and ankle, besides being diagnosed with acute gastroenteritis with mild pancreatitis in the past.
Asked about retirement, she said: “Woh toh sab ko karna parta hai (everyone has to retire someday)…there is no deadline. Everyone is going to stop when you feel the body is not supporting you. But at the moment I am trying. As a sports person, it is my duty to try because I love the game and I have been playing for so many years.
“But if it doesn’t happen, then it means how much I have tried. I have done everything, I mean I shouldn’t have any regret. My target is not to play Asian Games or Olympics because I have achieved a lot in those tournament and of course it could have been better if I would have been able to play, but let’s see how it goes.”
The London Olympics bronze medallist feels the young brigade in women’s singles is lacking the all-round game required to succeed at world stage.
“Badminton is one of the toughest sports in the world physically. You need to be 100 per cent fit throughout the year to play 17 to 20 tournaments in a year. Sindhu and me were gifted, we were natural retrievers on the court and we had an attacking game as well,” she said.
“But other players as far as I am watching the matches, they lack a few things. It is not easy to play at the highest level unless you have an all-round game. We are lacking somewhere here and there.”