Prizes won, accolades earned and interviews done. India's badminton queen, Saina Nehwal is the only Indian woman to have broken into the top 10, forget about her current ranking of No. 3; and she has come a long way. What is impressive though is that she clearly knows the road ahead will be much tougher.
"It's going to be difficult from here," said the ace Indian shuttler. "When you become a world No. 3, the world changes for you. Up here, the battle is not just to live, but to stay on top."
No one would know what it takes to be where Saina is, better than her mentor and national coach, Pullela Gopichand, who took her under his wings and brought her to this level. "She deserves to be where she is today," he said. "But let's not forget, with power, comes great responsibility. The sense of achievement is there. But there's a lot of work left, which will only come with time."
A lot has been said and written about Saina's fitness and the battle between her and the Chinese. Unfazed by all the debate, Gopichand has a simple point to make, "The Chinese are good when it comes to speed and agility. She has just entered the zone of heavyweights. Those who have been there know the tricks of the trade. Saina still needs sometime to come up to that level of perfection."
Talking about fitness and the game, the coach said Saina possesses a great deal of endurance and has the ability to stay in, and win long rallies, but against higher ranked opponents, it will not be easy going.
"I need to work on every aspect of her game. At this point, if Saina comes up against anybody who is a notch above her, then she will need to slug it out.
Fitness is not a problem, but when you are faced with a higher ranked opponent, your fitness levels and skills are put to the test."
Gopichand reiterated that not only has her game improved, but also the mental strength one needs to reach the top. "The belief and faith Saina has in herself is incredible," he said. "If I teach her a shot, she straightaway uses it in big tournaments, when others would hesitate until they are more comfortable playing it. And it's not just a shot; it's a confident shot, played to perfection. To be the best, you need to be mentally strong enough to push your limits consistently."
Performance no criteria
Premier Brands, the official sponsors of the Indian team, on Tuesday said that the company was contemplating equal distribution of money to all team members, and are in talks with the Badminton Association of India. The company had earlier decided to pay the 16 players on the basis of their performance.
Teams for Macau, Chinese Taipei selected
The team for Macau Open and Chinese Taipei has been selected. Aditi Mutatkar, P. Kashyap, Chetan Anand and Guru Sai Dutt will represent India in Macau Open. The same team, sans Anand will play in Chinese Taipei.