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Ahead of the game

She’s focused, she’s talented, she’s mature and she plays to win. Saina’s stars are really shining.

india Updated: Jun 28, 2010 21:36 IST

In sports, there’s something special about scoring a hat-trick: it catapults a player into a different league that only a very few are lucky to enter. So world number 3 Saina Nehwal has every reason to feel immensely proud of her superlative performance in Jakarta on Sunday where she won the Indonesian Open. This was Nehwal’s third straight win in June 2010, the other two being the Indian Open and the Singapore Open. Her wins, as one author wrote, rekindle the memories of 1980 when another illustrious shuttler Prakash Padukone won three titles on the trot to clinch the top spot. That coveted spot is now surely well within Nehwal’s reach.

If there’s someone who is acutely aware of the promise that the future holds for her, it is probably the champion herself. Yet, she isn’t overly focused on her rankings. Nehwal, rightly, feels that the quality of her game should be club-class and everything will follow. Her mature handling of her victories, as well as defeats, only show that she’s cool and pragmatic. You’ll never catch her whining about the lack of infrastructure in India or that the cricketers manage to hog the limelight all the time. Her focus on improving her performance is the hallmark of her strategy as well as her personality, which, of course, has been honed by another badminton star and her coach, P. Gopichand.

Many feel that the absence of top Chinese players in these tournaments may have helped Nehwal and that last year she missed the China Open because it could have lowered her rankings. But let’s not forget that there’s something called strategy and it’s as important as the game itself. As for the other tournaments, it’s not her fault that the Chinese did a no-show. Moreover, it’s not that she can avoid playing the Chinese forever. Let’s judge her on it when she comes to that point, not before it. Meanwhile, let’s raise a toast to her latest on-court exploits.