After winning back-to-back tournaments, badminton star Saina Nehwal talks about Padukone, Aamir Khan, marriage, Olympics and comparisons with Sania Mirza
Congratulations on winning the Thailand Open and Indonesian Open. How does it feel?
It feels wonderful. And I hope it promotes badminton as a sport in India. It’s all because of the skills of Gopichandji (former Indian player and her coach, Pullela Gopichand) who helped me train and achieve success.
Do these wins boost your confidence before the Olympics?
I’m elated; and the next target — an Olympics medal — now seems achievable.
How are the preparations going?
Our four-week-long training did wonders for me. But I still have to put in some five more weeks.
Is there any pressure given that people have their hopes pinned on you to bring home an Olympic medal?
Not really. In fact, I’m happy to be in the medal hunt for my country.
Chinese players will be a big challenge for you...
Yes, the training that’s being given (to me) is to counter-attack the best performers in the world (the Chinese).
Have you set a deadline for yourself to reach the World No 1 ranking?
No, but I’m trying hard to win as many tournaments as possible. I don’t really think about rankings and ratings.
Apparently, Aamir Khan keeps a tab on your tournaments and usually offers words of encouragement. Is he still doing that with the Olympics coming up?
Yes, Aamir constantly sends congratulatory messages and encouraging words.
Any special message from him (Aamir) for the Olympics?
Yes, a few days ago, he sent a message across, “Congratulations and keep it up!” Actor Bikram Saluja also wished me after my recent wins.
You know Deepika Padukone through her father, Prakash. Are you also in touch with her, given that she too has played badminton at state level?
Deepika is now a famous film actor. So, she is busy and may not find time for such things (keeping tab on badminton tournaments). She may not even remember me.
Does it bother you that Sania Mirza garners more attention than you, though you’ve been more successful in your sport?
Not at all. She is a famous tennis player. And I am proud of her achievements in the sport.
On a lighter note, of late, people have apparently been asking you about your marriage plans. Anything on the cards?
I do not know what will happen if I say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ (laughs). As for marriage, I have no idea and also nobody in sight. So let me concentrate on my beloved game for some more years. It’s still too early to tie the knot.
Acting offers have come your way. Any plans to give it a shot in the future?
No such plans. Right now, I’m only concerned about my game and nothing else matters