By Dr Harvir Singh Nehwal
If it was the Indonesian Open title in June 2009, it was the Singapore Open trophy that Saina Nehwal won in June 2010. Both times it was special as she won the titles on or around Father’s day. This year, however, she could not make it a hat-trick of titles, losing to Shao Chieh Cheng of Chinese Taipei in the second round of the Singapore Open yesterday.
Cheng is almost the same age as Saina and has got the better of Saina on a previous occasion. When Saina called me after the match, she told me she could not play well. It was of course disappointing because Saina won the first set comfortably at 21-8 and was in a commanding position even in the third game, before losing six points on the trot.
She still has the Indonesian Open, where again she is the defending champion, to make up for the disappointments at Thailand and Singapore Open.
The competition this year, being an Olympic qualification year, has been very tough and the draw did not made it any easy for Saina. In fact, before leaving for Bangkok for the Thailand Open, Saina did worry about the draw since she was facing Chinese players in almost every round. My only advice to Saina was “Draw se mat daro. Himmat se khelo to jeetoge.”
To make matters worse for Saina, she fell on the treadmill just before she left for this three-nation tour and injured herself. A second setback since she is already battling her ankle injury for some months now.
The coming one and a half years leading up to the London Olympics are extremely crucial for Saina. She has to maintain her form so that her rankings do not slip because that will decide what kind of draw she gets in London.
Saina leads an extremely disciplined life and you can set the clock to her routine. Life as a sportsperson is not easy and she has had to give up on a lot in life to come this far. She has never eaten a samosa in her life and gave up eating chocolates, even though she is very fond of them. She has never played with a doll nor has known what a birthday party is.
But if she achieves the goals she has set for herself and fulfills the expectations that India has from her, it will be the biggest party of her life.
(Dr Harvir Singh Nehwal is badminton player Saina Nehwal’s father and works as an agricultural scientist in Hyderabad. You can read all his blogs here )