Top spot no big deal, says Saina Nehwal

MUMBAI: Injuries have put a break on Saina Nehwal’s surge for a while, but the ace Indian shuttler’s condition has improved and she is raring to give her best in the remainder of the season beginning with the $700,000 China Open Super Series next week at Fuzhou.

A pelvic inflammation had resulted in early exits from tournaments in Japan, Denmark and France Super Series. But a two-week rest seems to have done the trick for Saina.

“It’s getting better and hopefully it will reduce further. There is less pain in the pelvic area now. I was suffering from pain in the abdomen for almost one-and-half months but that is over. It was painful reaching the net due to all this and it reflected in my results. Taking rest has helped me a lot and I am trying to get my fitness up,” Saina told TOI in an exclusive chat.

They say it’s easier to reach the top than to remain there. It was proved in Saina’s case too as a slump in form helped Spain’s Carolina Marin snatch the No. 1 ranking from her.

“It’s not easy to reach the No. 1 rank, let alone maintain it. You have to keep winning all the big events to have a chance. When I had not reached there, I feared if I would be able to do it or not. I am glad to have achieved it and for me getting back to the No. 1 spot is not a big challenge anymore as I have done it before,” the 25-year-old explained.

Talking about getting the No. 1 rank back from Carolina, the Commonwealth Games gold medalist said: “She is a tough opponent and understands my game well. We share a healthy rivalry. I have got a 3-2 record against her this year. So, I don’t need to worry much about her. It’s just that I need to be in good shape and the rest will follow.”

Saina’s coach Vimal Kumar had recently said that her desire to maintain her ranking is taking a toll on the Hyderabadi’s body as good rankings will ensure a favourable draw in the Rio Olympics next year. But Saina denied it saying: “I have never thought about the rankings. It’s not about the Olympics. It’s more about maintaining form. If I am in good form, I don’t need to think about the draw (at Rio). And that is what I intend to do in the last three events of the year. We will start preparations for Rio only July next year, which is still far away .”

After China Open, Saina will compete in the $350,000 Hong Kong Open (Nov 17 to 22) before heading to Dubai for the $1 million World Super Series Finals from December 9 to 13.