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Saina hailed as the new star

The teenager has been hailed as the next big thing in Indian sporting horizon.

india Updated: Jun 03, 2006 13:33 IST

Indian Badminton fraternity is ecstatic at Saina Nehwal's rise to stardom and hails the teenager as the next big thing in Indian sporting horizon, one who can even surpass the achievements of badminton queen Aparna Popat.

Former badminton players like Vimal Kumar, Madhumita Bisht and her coach Pullela Gopichand spoke in unison about Saina's unflinching attitude and commitment towards the game.

"Saina had it in her to make it big. She has a great attitude and a big heart while on court. It's really surprising to have such commitment at this age. The Philippines Open win was a remarkable feat. She has just started her career and has to go a long way" outgoing Indian coach Vimal Kumar said.

Vimal's preference of Saina over nine-time national champion Aparna Popat in the Melbourne Commonwealth Games turned out to be a masterstroke as she dumped world no 13 and 9 Li Li and Tracey Hallam, who were also the defending gold and silver medallist in singles, and helped India win bronze.

"We started our campaign in Melbourne very badly and lost 5-0 to England in the first match and the morale of the entire team was down except Saina. I saw her sitting in the corner and her eyes telling me just give me one chance."

"I had tremendous faith in her abilities and I decided to give her the chance in place of Aparna and she proved me right. She played fearlessly and beat some top players of world badminton and we won the bronze.

Gopichand, who took over as the chief coach of the Indian national team, said that she is a very fast learner of the game.