| Saina Nehwal |
Hyderabad: Having ended her prolonged title drought, Saina Nehwal, on Tuesday, avowed she was back to her best and that she would play select tournaments this year to be in good shape ahead of major events — the Commonwealth Games and the Asian Games.
Saina beat talented compatriot P.V. Sindhu in the final to clinch Indian Open, last week. “It feels great. Last year was not really up to the mark in terms of many things. But it is a good start this year.
“In the Malaysian Open also, I played really well. I could see the difference in my game. But well and truly, India Open was really great… I finally pulled off such a big tournament,” Saina said after her return from Lucknow. “It (final) was a very good match. She (Sindhu) has been playing well. Playing such a good match against her was really great.
“I think I am back to my best, just that I need to maintain this form and come back to even better shape for the even bigger tournaments next month.”
Saina would not like to skip any important tournament, but prefers playing two at a time, as she needs to stay mentally and physically fit for the Asian Games and the Commonwealth Games.
“Right now, the important aspect is to stay fit, train as much as possible. I would like to play fewer tournaments if possible. I want to take care of my body, which was not very supportive last year as I had a few injuries,” she added.
Saina believes winning close matches during the Indian Open brought her confidence back.
“It is a great confidence booster, more so, as I lost very close matches to a lot of top-ranked players. Finally, in the Indian Open, I got that one point of break against the Chinese player. That gave me a lot of confidence.”
Saina also thanked her mentor and chief national coach Pullela Gopichand for the way he planned and trained her in the run-up to the Indian Open.
“He was the one who believed that I can be at my best again. Before the start of the tournament, he had said ‘Expect Saina to win’. That’s exactly what happened. The belief that he had in me was great,” she said.
Asked about playing against Sindhu, Saina said she was like any other opponent for her.
“I think playing at the international level is not easy. I play a lot of tough opponents on a frequent basis. Even Sindhu is one of them. Of course, she is from India and same academy. But for me, when I’m playing against someone, it is just another opponent.
“Sindhu is doing very well. I want to congratulate her for her performances. I hope many other Indians come forward and do well for the country,” she said.
Sindhu, on the other hand, said that her target in 2014 is to be among the world's top-6 and maintain her position.
“Right now I am ranked world No. 11 but I would like to improve my ranking and be among the top-6 in 2014 and remain there. Hopefully, I will achieve my target and then aim for a better ranking in 2015. I want to take things a step at a time,” Sindhu said.
Sindhu said she was preparing hard for the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games and aims to improve her endurance level because these competitions could test her. “I will be playing the Commonwealth and the Asian Games for the first time so I hope it to be a good experience. I need to practise and improve a lot more. I will also be focussing on increasing my endurance level and for that I will be training quite hard,” she said. (PTI)