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Hours of labour bear fruit

other Updated: Sep 14, 2008 23:54 IST
Abhijeet Kulkarni
Abhijeet Kulkarni
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

Soon after winning her maiden national title in January 2007 in Patna, Saina Nehwal commented on the lack of work ethics among some seniors.

The statement was construed by many as her arrogance, but those knowing the Hyderabadi lass would have vouched that the reaction was nothing more than an expression of surprise from a 16-year-old over the debate on how much training was too much.

For Saina pushing herself mentally and physically is second nature, so much so that at times her coaches have had to tell her to ease off.

And all those hours spent on the court and the gymnasium bore fruit on Saturday when the 18-year-old beat world number 72 Lydia Cheah of Malaysia 21-8, 21-19 to win the $170,000 Chinese Taipei Grand Prix Gold badminton tournament in Taipei.

The championship also put Saina's name in the annuls of history as the Bharat Petroleum employee became the first Indian woman to win a Grand Prix gold event — equivalent to a tier-two tournament in tennis.

The world number 14 had created history when she won the four-star 2006 Philippines Open as a rookie and went one step up with her triumph on Saturday.

Saina's achievement is all the more significant since none of the women shuttlers have won anything above the challenger series before her and only two Indian shuttlers, All England champions Pullela Gopichand and Prakash Padukone, have achieved higher success than her.

The victory also gave the Indian 7000 ranking points and a prize purse of $12,750 (approx. Rs 5.5 lakh) and could catapult her to 12 in the next world ranking if Hong Kong's Pui Yin Yip and Juliane Schenk who currently occupy the 12th and 13th spots respectively.

The Gopichand academy trainee dropped just one game through out the tournament and the way she dominated the semifinals was a great exhibition of her fitness and tenacity.

"We got good 10 weeks to work on her fitness and speed this year and that is showing its result," said Gopichand, who is also the national coach.

"After the 2006 Philippines Open, her opponents had started catching her on some weak points. We worked on them and despite a few limitations, Saina now manages to minimise the damage by playing faster," he told Hindustan Times from Hyderabad.

Saina's ability to push her was evident when as a 12-year-old she started playing five events in a day. She used to begin her day with the under-13 singles and end with under-19 doubles.

"I guess all those years of playing so many events just added to my hunger of playing more," she added.

The two-time national champion now aims to break into the top-10 by the year end and is looking forward to the Japan Super Series (September 16-21) and the China Masters Super series (September 23-28) to make the cut.

That means she would have no time to celebrate her triumph here, as she would be leaving for Japan on Sunday morning.

"I will celebrate it with an elaborate dinner with my coach (Manjusha Kanwar) here," she said.

And for the grand celebration? "Well that will have to wait. I don't like to lose my focus during tournaments. "And really speaking I will celebrate like crazy only after winning an Olympic medal," she signed off.