Saina Nehwal during her match against Sabrina Jacquet, on Sunday
London: The performance of Saina Nehwal has come as a welcome relief for the Indian badminton contingent on Sunday at the London Olympics when most of their medal hopefuls are making an early exit.
The day also saw Jwala Gutta getting involved in an ugly spat with the chair umpire over a ‘double shot’.
Saina made an impressive start to her Olympic campaign on Sunday. The shuttler from Hyderabad smashed Swiss Sabrina Jacquet in a lop-sided affair, taking the game in straight sets in just 22 minutes. She won 21-9, 21-4 in a first round Group E match .
Wearing a purple dress, Saina was in punishing mood. Asked whether it was a step ahead towards winning a medal, she smiled and said: “The tournament has just started… We should not talk about medals this soon.”
Saina said she was happy to put up a confident performance in the first match. “Only twice I made errors. I was hitting my shots well. My next opponent is Lianne Tan (of Belgium)… I have never played against her before. But I feel pretty confident now,” she said.
Saina is a bit sad that her parents, who were supposed to join her in London to watch her Olympic campaign, have not arrived. “They were scheduled to come but the programme has been cancelled,” said the star shuttler.
With his ward in such superb form, Gopi Chand is delighted. But the coach doesn’t want to go overboard with the celebrations.
Instead, he is staying calm, avoiding any talks about the medal possibilities.
“The start is good but it doesn’t mean much when you have to run a long distance,” was how the former All-England champion summed up Saina’s victory.
Though Saina’s win brought delight to the contingent, the poor performances of the other shuttlers dampened the spirits. The mixed doubles pair of Jwala and V. Diju went down to 2009 World Championships winners, Thomas Laybourn and Kamilla Rytter Juhl of Denmark, seeded eighth, 12-21, 16-21 in 30 minutes. The Indian pair was erratic and is out of the tournament.
To make matters worse, Jwala was involved in a spat with the chair umpire over a “double shot” hit by her. With the umpire remaining firm over his decision, the Indian was clearly unhappy. She did not even turn up for the mandatory press conference after the match was over.
Also strange were Gopi Chand’s comments on the issue. “I was busy preparing for Saina’s match… So I did not watch the incident. I should not comment,” was all the chief coach said.
Saina, though, remained sympathetic. “They (Jwala and Diju) were unlucky to be drawn into a tough group. Otherwise, they would have done much better here,” she said.