Winning three titles back-to-back is no mean feat. But is the achievement big if one didn’t play a Chinese?
The question keeps coming back to Saina Nehwal. Last year, the Indian shuttler had skipped the China Masters, fearing it would hamper her ranking, and it raised eyebrows.
This year, barring the Singapore Open Super Series, where she played China’s Li Xuerui in the quarters and Lan Lu in the semis, and won, the world No. 3 did not come across a Chinese player. During the Asian Championship, her journey was cut short in the semifinals by a Chinese qualifier.
Would the result in Jakarta have been different had she played Chinese shuttlers?
“I don’t think so,” said Saina. “Last year, I defeated a Chinese to win the Indonesia Super Series. I don’t think their presence or absence affects my play,” she told HT from Jakarta.
Last month, she won the India Open Grand Prix in Chennai, which was more like a national championship as none of the big international names were present.
Though she won both the Super Series without meeting a top shuttler, Saina maintained that the other Asian players gave her a tough time. “The Chinese are playing in their domestic league. It was expected (their absence). But, the Asians are no less,” she said.
Asked if Saina would be under pressure at the World Championships, scheduled in Paris in August, Vimal Kumar, senior coach at the Prakash Padukone Academy in Bangalore, said though the improvement in ranking would mean she would meet the Chinese in the later stages, her form would come handy. “If she survives the Chinese and win the tournament, it will only get bigger for Saina,” said Vimal.