Saina Nehwal is on a high. The 16-year-old shuttler has become the youngest Indian ever to break into the top-30 of the world rankings.
The amiable Hyderabadi is elated at having achieved this feat, which is double creditable because she has not completed even a year on the International Badminton Federation (IBF) circuit.
Speaking to HT from Hyderabad, Saina said she had not expected to break into the top-30 so early in her career, and that she is ahead of her anticipated progress chart.
"Frankly, I was aiming for a top-30 finish towards the end of the year," she said. "I was working towards that for the past two years, so I was thrilled when I saw the IBF website a couple of days back. At first I thought it was a mistake! I am going to savour this moment for a long time."
Saina said maintaining her high rank would prove tougher than achieving it.
"It is always difficult to maintain one's high ranking, as opposed to attaining one," she said. "In such a competitive circuit, one has to perform consistently in all the tournaments one plays in, and that is what I intend to do."
Talking of her immediate future plans, Saina said: "Right now I am practicing in the right earnest for the World Championships (which gets underway in Madrid on September 18). So the rise in the rankings could not have come at a better time, as this gives me greater confidence to take on the higher ranked players."
Incidentally, Aparna Popat holds the record for the highest rank achieved by an Indian woman badminton player - she reached a high of 21 in 2000, and clung to that spot for three weeks.