In with the young and out with the old? Well, the hype around the much-anticipated PV Sindhu-Saina Nehwal clash earlier this month was just that. Riding on the success of a World Championship bronze, Sindhu was touted as the new hope.
And winning her maiden Grand Prix Gold event this year in Malaysia added to the aura. On the other hand, the London Olympics bronze medalist had injury and fitness issues plaguing her.
But when the two training partners met for the first time in their professional careers in the Indian Badminton League opener, there was no stopping Saina.
"People think I had issues, but I know my capabilities," clarifies Saina. After a quick practice session at the Gachibowli Stadium, she looked relaxed as she signed autographs for young fans.
"No matter what happens I try to give off my best. It's good that Sindhu got the medal, but I'm still strong.
There are always good days and bad, but I'm glad I pulled off that match." For the record, the 23-year-old is still unbeaten in the IBL.
Fitness is the key for Saina. As national coach Pullela Gopichand recently said, "Saina showed many of the Indians that we can do it at the world stage. It's the confidence and belief which hard training has brought her." But after a knee injury during last year's Denmark Open which she won, and again a hairline fracture which sidelined her from this year's Sudirman Cup, it's taken Saina a while to find her form.
"I'm correcting my mistakes on court but with the injury and fracture I really couldn't do much but sit out for a month. Yes, I haven't won a tournament since then but I have made it to the last-four stages. I just need one break to get into a final. I'm a human being after all, people expect too much at times," says the world No. 4.
"Some have said I don't give importance to national tournaments, but look at IBL. I've played with Indians and international players in the tournament. Sometimes I feel I'm the only person everyone is bothered with," she laughs.