The story seems to be repeating itself this year as the Hyderabad ace has managed to win only the Swiss Open and has not made it past the quarters in any other tournament.
This month alone, she lost in the quarters of the Asian Championships to Chinese newcomer Xiao Jia Chen before bowing out to Youn Joo Bae in the second round of the India Open Super Series event on Thursday.
The only silver lining in the last 16 months is that she has clung on to her high world ranking, currently No 5, but her inconsistency has created concern about her chances of winning a medal at the London Olympics this year.
A day after her defeat to Korean left-hander Bae, coach Gopi Chand demanded that his ward started playing more intelligently: “It is difficult to pinpoint the problem, but she really has to play more intelligently.” And this may well be the answer to the problem haunting her.
Nehwal lacks natural deception in her strokes and she must make up for that by anticipating quickly and moving to the net faster. Her inability to control the net cost her the match against Bae. Also an astute player must try and figure out what strategy her opponent is utilising. She must try and outwit her opponent mentally. That has not been happening in the past few months.
Yet the proverbial Olympic medal is within her grasp — even gold. She has the experience and hunger to mine this metal. But with just 88 days left for the games, she must quickly come up with some solutions and start thinking out of the box. She is strong and very fit. But what is required is that she starts thinking on her feet. That will make the big difference.