PV Sindhu’s bronze-medal winning effort at the World Championships in the second week of August generated a lot of frenzy. Fans were quick to latch on to the fact that badminton in India was about to rise a notch higher, now that reigning queen Saina Nehwal, was finally going to have a local challenger.
And, the inaugural Indian Badminton League (IBL) that began soon after the tournament in Guangzhou, China, could not have asked for a better advertisement for their venture. As luck would have it, Nehwal and Sindhu’s respective teams -- Hyderabad Hotshots and Awadhe Warriors -- were scheduled to play on the second day of the competition and expectations of a humdinger rented the air.
Saina vs Sindhu
Nevertheless, Nehwal was quick to give Sindhu a reality check by winning pretty easily 21-19, 21-8. And she has been in sizzling form thereafter. “I was far more relaxed after that win. So many people had already written me off. I did not have to prove anything,” Nehwal told MiD DAY in Hyderabad.
“I always play to the best of my ability. Sindhu is still so young and has to get some more experience. She has a great future. She works really hard and is a good person. I have no personal rivalry with her. And rather than comparing the two of us, people should be happy that Indian badminton now has two players in the top ten world rankings,” added Nehwal.
Soon after her match against Sindhu, Saina found herself fighting fire once again as her comments regarding her legendary Hotshots teammate Taufik Hidayat didn’t go down too well with a few other players who felt she had disrespected the former Indonesian World and Olympic champion. Saina however is unfazed by such criticism “One can criticise me any time. It does not affect me. I let my racquet to do the talking. People should understand this,” said Nehwal.
‘Taufik is a legend’
“In any case, I think my statement was not taken correctly. What I meant was that if someone has announced retirement, then obviously his/her value will go down. This will happen to me too. Apart from that, I have great respect for Taufik. He is a legend and yet so down to earth. He is always helping us with suggestions and some fine insight.” On about her IBL experience, the World No 4 Indian said: “I am really enjoying myself. I have been excited about the IBL even since it was launched. It has been great in every way. For me personally, to be part of and playing for a team is a new and happy experience. All of us at Hyderabad Hotshots are helping each other and looking after each other. And to have someone like Taufik guiding us from the coach’s bench is something no one would have thought of. It’s fantastic!”
I don’t have to prove anything. I always play to the best of my ability. But one can criticise me anytime. It does not affect me. I let my racquet do the talking. I think people should be able to understand this
-- Saina Nehwal
The writer is a former India player.