India’s ace shuttler Saina Nehwal had achieved three memorable feats this year enroute to her gaining the coveted and unprecedented World No.1 status today, said former international Uday Pawar.
“It’s welcome news. She is the first woman player to become World No.1. Prakash (Padukone) had already become World No.1 (among men),” Pawar told PTI, while reacting to the development.
“This year, she has achieved three new feats. The first feat she achieved this year was to win the China Open as very few outsiders have done it. The second was in reaching All England final and now becoming the No.1. It has been an exceptionally good year for Saina,” said Pawar.
Pawar felt the switch that the London Olympic Games bronze medalist made by moving her base from her hometown Hyderabad to Bengaluru to train under former national champion Vimal Kumar has played a huge role in her rising career graph.
“That has happened because Vimal has made a lot of changes in her game. Basically her smash has improved, she is hitting harder and her net game has improved a lot. These new dimensions have made a big difference,” said Pawar.
“She had always lost to Wang Yihan (of China), but this time she won in straight games at the All England. The way she was playing earlier, all players knew how to play against her as her attack was not so good then.
“Now her movement towards the net is quicker, which has also caught her opponents unaware,” Pawar explained.
He said Saina would not be satisfied with only becoming No.1 and a lot more could be expected from her in the future.
“I think she looks very determined and won’t be satisfied with no 1. We can expect better results. Though she lost in the All England final she dominated for one and a half games (against Spain’s world champion Carolina Marin). Only a lapse in concentration saw her lose her grip.”
While saying next year’s Rio Olympics was too far ahead, Pawar noted the slump of the all-powerful Chinese women armada and felt this has opened up some new possibilities.
“Rio is far way as in badminton terminology the next tournament is what you have to think of. If she remains injury-free, she will do well.”
According to the former doubles expert, who is now a coach, the Chinese women have had a downward curve in performance and paradigm shift in badminton is visible.
“The Chinese are going through a big slump. They are the leading players in women but of late none of their top players have been playing well. Probably they play a lot of badminton. It could be small injuries or they may be mentally stale. These ups and downs are there. In the top ten, anyone can beat anyone else depending on fitness and form.
“Marin and Saina thrashed all Chinese players in the All England, which means there’s a new force in world badminton. Ratchanok Intanon (Thailand) is the youngest to win the world championship (in 2013). She had a slight injury, but today she won a hard fought match (against Marin) which means she is also fit,” Pawar concluded.