Saina Nehwal Curated

Indian Professional Badminton Player

CURATED BY :      +44 others


  • How did you feel playing the senior nationals after a long time in 2017 at Nagpur?

  • How hard was it to come back after recovering from the sports injury which you suffered in 2016?

  • When you started your career you were mostly facing Chinese and Asian players ,but as you grew to be number one you faced a variety of players from different continents as well , So could you tell us how that experience of change has been?

  • Vimal Kumar mentioned that your challenge is more mental than physical. Tell us more.

    It is definitely mental because, as I said, the confidence will come back when I start winning matches. At the same time, I need to be very strong physically like how I was. So, it’s not like once you are out for two or two and a half months and then again you lost that momentum altogether. So it is like a new beginning, to be moving freely on the court. When I see myself moving on the court, I can see that there is a little bit of a struggle and when things will open up automatically, the results will come. That is what is really lacking as of now. Of course, it is mental because the challenge is now about getting on from the surgery and (get) good training. The matches are getting very very close. All the matches I have lost to players like Sato Sayaka have been very close matches, going into three games. The thing is how you convert it.

  • What do think of the new breed of Chinese shuttlers like Sun Yu, Chen Yufei, and He Bingjiao, who have moved up the ladder ever since Li Xuerui, Wang Yihan quit?

    I would say players like Li Xuerui, Wang Yihan, Wang Shixian, Wang Lin and Wang Zing were better players (than the new breed). They were faster and more technically gifted. The new ones are good, they might win some tournaments but they are not as consistent as the older generation. So that is the only difference, I think. He Bingjiao is of course 20, so they are still young. But when Li Xuerui and others in her generation had come in at the age of 18 and 19, they started winning so many titles. You can’t compare the two generations. But still, they are young so we can tell that they have a lot of time. They have a very good crop of players.

  • Tell us about how you coped after losing out to the All England Badminton Open to Carolina Marin. How did you bounce back?

    I feel bad when I think about the final. I don’t know what happened to me in the third game. It was like I was out of control. Carolina is a good player and due credit goes to her for raising the ante. I returned from England with lot of introspection on my game and trained hard for the Yonex Sunrise India Open. The Super series victory and being World No.1 shows the dedication and devotion I have for the game and it was a satisfying feeling after the All England Badminton Open Final loss.

  • Are you friends with some of your professional rivals?

    I am friendly with all the players of badminton but on court our attitude change as we prefer not to lose because of these relations.

  • What has been the hardest time in your career?

    The year 2015 has been the toughest year for me. Every loss, every talk about my poor form, my change of coaches, it was a very tough period for me. In fact, I was thinking about quitting after the World Championship. I had to overcome a lot of odds to return to top form and that’s a huge thing for me.

  • What are the challenges of being a sportswoman in India?

    To get better infrastructure and best coaches is a problem to most of the sports persons, either men or women, in India. I was lucky that I got all these basic needs at my home in Hyderabad. All coaches and players in badminton helped me to get the best of badminton. I didn't feel any discrimination being a sportswoman in India.

  • What do you make of Sania Mirza becoming No. 1 in tennis women’s doubles during the same time? Do you feel a connection with her as a duo who is breaking new ground for Indian women in sports?

    There was a time when no one expected that India can emerge as a major sporting powerhouse, but today I am sure they will have second thoughts. It is a huge achievement and I completely understand what kind of sacrifices and hard work goes into reaching there. India has two World No 1s and I hope and pray the number only increases from here on. The outlook towards sports has changed since our success at the Olympic stage. Families encourage their daughters and children to take up sports. And I hope there will be many more Saina Nehwals and Sania Mirzas.

  • What was it like moving to Bangalore after leaving Pullela Gopichand?

    “The first 10 days after moving to Bangalore, many people were against me, saying ‘why is Saina doing this? It’s not going to be easy for her now’. So with that criticism, they put a lot of pressure on me that I might not perform well after changing coaches. “But God has been really kind to me, he gave me that belief that I just have to train and not think about what people are saying,”

  • How did it feel like being World No.1 after winning the Indian Open title in 2015?

    I just waited for my time, did my training, believed in myself. And the confidence that was zero before, Vimal made me really believe. Every day he told me ‘first of all get your confidence back’. Every session he made me feel like a champion.”

  • What do you think about Sania Mirza becoming the number one in tennis?

    “Sania is a great player. She also came in the limelight in 2005 and I came up a year after that. There have been a lot of coincidences with Sania, a lot of titles together. What she’s doing for the country is great and finally achieving world No1 status in doubles, doing it together, that’s great,”

  • When was that exact moment that you finally decided you had to move on from Gopichand?

    My mum told me in 2013 ‘You’re not improving and you’re facing some problems. There should be some way out of it. You can’t take the risk of again going to practice the same way then losing, you have to think what is going wrong with you’, “At one point it became too much for me. I won the Australia Open (in 2014), I did well in the Thomas & Uber Cup but at the World Championship, it was the same thing again with Liu Xuerui. I lost in straight games. I wasn’t even giving them a tough fight. I was losing easily. “Finally I told myself ‘that’s enough, it’s not working out anymore’. I cried a lot after that. I’m a human being and you feel bad. I came home and I told my dad ‘I need a change, I think I have to move out of my comfort zone and go to Bangalore and see how it is going to be’.”

  • How do you keep your focus despite setbacks?

    I have chosen to play badminton as a professional. It is what I wanted to do. Therefore, if I have to sustain and succeed in my chosen career I have to keep my focus. Acknowledging this fact helps me do that.

  • How do you deal with setbacks? And what is your advice to young players about dealing with setbacks?

    Setbacks are a part of life, you cannot wish them away. I think you have to deal with them so that you can come back stronger.

  • You have always spoken highly of your coach and mentor Mr Gopichand. How important is the role of a mentor?

    He is very, very important. I was just an ordinary person, he made me the badminton player I am today.

  • From whom do you draw inspiration?

    These are sportspeople who are a few years older to me like Sachin Sir and Roger Federer.

  • China, though, continues to be a problem for India. They had blocked Gopichand’s path, now they have even tried to stall you as well. What explains their domination?

    In China, there are more academies and trained coaches in badminton as compared to India. They give full financial support to their players. They have at least eight players ready for each category compared to India where we have one, maybe two. Their natural build and nutrition are different from ours. In India, popularising the sport at the grass-root level is the key to our rise. We need an assembly line to compete with China.

  • Aparna Popat, former world No. 16 and one of India’s finest badminton players, has seen the sport morph from a niche discipline to one that is followed by the masses today. And she feels that you have played a big role in that transition. But why has your brand not made that much of an impact?

    Maybe badminton players are boring because that is how our mental make-up is. If you step back a generation, how many characters would you find in badminton? If you do the same for tennis, F1 or even cricket—you will find plenty of such instances,My coach, for example, didn’t even let me read comic books when I was growing up because he thought that the small print may affect my eyes.

  • How much time does it take to recover after a sports injury and get back on track?

    Coming out of a surgery is not an easy thing. Regardless of whether it was minor or major, it will definitely affect stamina and endurance. You're losing out three or four months of your time there. It takes two months of rehabilitation, another two months to get back into the shape. It might take sometimes a year and year and a half to get back to full fitness. You tend to hesitate to do some movements as I was putting a lot of load on the right knee.

  • Would things have been different if you did not suffer the injury in the world champions match?

  • What are the challenges you tend to face when you are in the position of something like number one?

  • Why is it that you think there are only great women players in Badminton?

  • You felt really sad when you were not nominated for a Padma Bhushan award ? Do you feel that eminent people like you should ask for respect rather being happy with what they recieve?

  • So do have that want and drive to win a National Award?

  • How did it feel when you first eat the Chinese at their own game in 2009?

    I’m still surprised how it all happened. I had lost the first game to Li, and in the second set, we were locked at 17-17. I was nervous, but grit and determination kept me going and I won the set by 19-21. This buoyed my confidence in the third set which was vital for the win.

  • What was your most best game ever?

    I can’t say. However, my most memorable game was in the Olympics QF where I lost.

  • Is sponsorship a problem for badminton players in India?

    For me it’s like god’s gift, but there are players who face sponsorship issues. Corporate houses must come forward and help such players.

  • Did you ever think of playing another sport?

    No. My first love is badminton. I’m often asked why I didn’t try tennis. Training in tennis is too expensive compared to badminton.

  • Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

    One woman of India to be remembered in badminton in the world.

  • Was it any easier to have a spouse as inclined as you are in badminton?

    We started travelling for bigger tours from 2007-08 onwards. We played tournaments together, trained together and slowly, started paying more attention to each other’s matches. In the competitive world that we live in, it is difficult to get close to someone. But somehow we both found it very easy to talk to each other, talk about our matches. The feeling gradually grew,we didn’t think about marriage before. The career that we pursue is very demanding. It is very important to win tournaments and we didn’t want to shift our focus by getting married earlier.

  • You called Tai Tzu Ying as a complete player , why is that so?

    Yes, I think so. Its because you don't know where to play her and where to get the points, I was really confused there, I played well, she played ever better so you have to be alert there. I tried to do but she has all kind of shots, even if you put her in a difficult position, she comes out of it. You have to have that game to beat her, to properly plan but I tried. It's not like that you can't beat her. It's not impossible. You have to have a complete game because she has those deceptive shots to come out of difficult situations.    

  • How did it feel to win the maiden Asian games medal in 2010 to 2014?

    Yeah it felt great but this time, being unseeded, I could have faced anyone but the draw was favourable. I am happy I could get a medal. But the point is to fight with each and every player.

  • Does it motivate you to see someone new , who is also from your own academy and has trained under your coach doing so well?

  • What does the presense of your coach bring to the table, when you are going up against a big international player?

  • You are one of the top 16 people to win the Olympics. Can you describe that experience of being on the Olympic stage and also what it was for your coach to see you there?

  • Your husband is in an opposite team in PBL, So what would it make you feel if you have to face him in a match?

  • How has life changed after something big like marriage? Are you able to dedicate the same amount of time to Badminton or has there been some change?

    Everything is falling in place. It's like a dream run. I never thought that after marriage, I would go on to win my first title after two years, which I was really hoping for. It has been long since I won my Super Series title, but I was happy that I could reach one semi-final and one final after that... Unfortunately, Carolina Marin had to retire after the injury but I think I was quite lucky to win the tournament,

  • Your coach Vimal Kumar , recently lauded you for being quit a tough person? how does that make you feel?

    Thank you to Vimal sir for saying that, but I know it since my childhood. I used to fight matches and win them, and it's all because of my fighting spirit. Mentally, I am a little stronger, and that has been one of my specialities. I'm not someone with great stroke qualities, but I have to learn them.There is no shortcut in sports. Injury is part of a sportsperson's life. We have to be patient and go with the flow. We should make sure we have good training and be fitter. Rest is not in our hands.

  • How are you preparing for the All Englands Championship?

    I have to be very careful in tough situations because in bigger tournaments, I have to fight it and overcome it. The last time I lost in the All England Badminton final was in 2015.I have to make sure I have to overcome (issues) and win major events as well. I know it's not going to be easy, but I am going to correct a few of my mistakes and movements.If I do that and if I am one of the fittest in the tournaments, I can go on winning them.

  • Was 2018 quit a tough year?

    It is definitely a tough year. Throughout there were so many big tournaments and we did not even have time to rest and think about the next event. We had the Commonwealth Games, then in five-ten days, we had Asian Championships, then within one-two months, we had Asian Games and the World Championships and of course our Super Series events.

  • What about 2019 , will it be a difficult year ?

    Next year won't be as tough because we don't have Asian Games or CWG. But then it will be the year before the Olympics.I am happy we are getting a break in between, so that we can work on our mistakes and fitness levels.

  • How does social media help in boosting your personal brand? How has it helped you professionally?

    I am not interested in boosting myself as a brand. I am only interested in ensuring that the people who follow me on social media look at it in a positive way and take the right message.

  • How does social media help you in engaging with your fans? How often do you interact with them?

    I think it is my fans’ own instinct that they pursue me on social media; they like me! I am able to log into my site 2-3 times a day, because the rest of the day I remain busy in my game. So the time I am able to give to my fans is limited. But I did have a chat on Rediffmail after the Olympics and one on Facebook, recently. Even with the unavailability of enough time, it was quite enjoyable.

  • What was your primary reason to get on social media? What is your approach towards it? Read more at https://www.business2community.com/expert-interviews/interview-saina-nehwal-social-media-engaging-fans-0631384

    My intention was to generate an interest in sports within people, particularly in badminton. I wanted to make it easier for people to look for my game, follow it, stay fit and healthy; and I hoped that the younger generation may even be inspired to take it up as a profession. I am happy, and very grateful to all the people who like my Facebook page and follow it.

  • You follow a tough training schedule. What is it like?

    At present I have two sessions. The first is in the morning from 7 am to 12.30 pm. I come back home for lunch and some rest. My evening session is from 4 pm to 6.30 pm. It is quite hectic but satisfying.

  • How do you keep your focus despite setbacks?

    I have chosen to play badminton as a professional. It is what I wanted to do. Therefore, if I have to sustain and succeed in my chosen career I have to keep my focus. Acknowledging this fact helps me do that.

  • A lot of sports persons have started entrepreneurial ventures like opening sports academy, restaurants and so on. Do you have any entrepreneurial ambitions?

    No. I just want to play my game. Later, I would like to motivate younger players. At the end I want to be remembered by what I loved doing and that is playing and winning at badminton. i believe one does not need something like an entreprenerial venture to prove how big they have come along . What I play and accomplishments should be enough to inspire the youth.

  • How do you handle success and not let it get the better of you?

    I do not keep a count of how many titles I have bagged. I always try to win the encounter. It gives me great joy but if i lose I a match it also helps to learn as well as strive for more.

  • How much of a priority is a podium finish in the upcoming Olympics for you?

    I am set to give my best. Yes, to win a medal for India in the Olympics is my dream. But I will go step by step; I will give my hundred percent and leave the rest to God.

  • You have always spoken highly of your coach and mentor Mr Gopichand. How important is the role of a mentor?

    It is very, very important. I was just an ordinary person, he made me the badminton player I am today. It is the outcome of my hard work under the watchful eyes of my coach, Mr Pullela Gopichand.

  • So, Saina what do it feel like to be in top-10?

    “It is just a great year for me. Unbelievable I can say. So many results at a time. A dream come true to play quarterfinals in Olympics then play semifinals in Super Series events and then win the Junior Common Wealth and World Junior Championships and then to be selected for World Super Series finals and to crack into top-10. Everything is just happening. It is all because of my hard work. And God has been really kind to me. ”

  • What is the distinction of “Most Promising Player of 2008” which the BWF had bestowed ?

    “I was just expecting maximum to crack into Top-10 but not getting selected to the Super Series final and getting the most promising player award. I was really going on with my work winning all tournaments. But I did not know that December will be a very good month for me. I got three most promising awards. Then playing World Super Series final and then getting into top-10. So this three are like dream for me. I was just thinking may be I would crack into top-10 in next three four years. So it is very special for me.”

  • what kind of player do you think You are?

    “Actually I am a very strong player. Mentally very tough. I just don’t give up very easily. I make my opponent work very hard.”

  • So, how to be a tough player ?

    “I don’t know but from my childhood I had the habit to win whatever I am participating in. ..in any event. It is not just badminton. I was actually a very aggressive kind of person. I used to play all the sports. So whatever sport I used to play and I used to see someone else getting more points than me … I just couldn’t stand it. .. Even I have to do that. From my childhood I have got the habit of to do anything for winning. Even my mom has same attitude. She also fights. I think I have got her genes in me which is really working in such a tough sport. Badminton is so tough. Getting into top-10 in this age is really difficult and I have seen so many players working so hard and struggling to get here.”

  • How Saina feels about being a role model of many?

    “I think they watched me play and thought, ‘If Saina can do it, I can do it’.”

  • What Saina thinks about Parineeti playing her role in her biopic?

    Playing a sportsperson on screen when you are not one must be very challenging. I know how tough it must be for her to imitate my style on the court. I just wanted to tell her that I’m there with her to motivate her and guide her wherever she needs me. This sport can be tough for someone who doesn’t know its intricacies. Today, Parineeti knows the lifts, serves and certain shots. She’s worked to get them right. She’s come a long way in just a few months. With what she’s doing, I think it will be an emotional moment for me to see my life unfurl on the big screen. During my conversation with Parineeti, I realised just how similar we are as people. The fact that she’s a little tomboyish and has the right personality to play me is so reassuring.

  • What Saina thinks about Amole Gupte directing her biopic?

    I am happy that he’s directing my biopic. He knows how to handle such stories and he knows everything about my life very well. He knows what I am doing, where I am and even the results of those matches that aren’t aired on TV. He also gives me regular updates about the scenes that are being shot and Parineeti’s on-going prep.

  • What Saina thinks about Amole Gupte directing her biopic?

    I am happy that he’s directing my biopic. He knows how to handle such stories and he knows everything about my life very well. He knows what I am doing, where I am and even the results of those matches that aren’t aired on TV. He also gives me regular updates about the scenes that are being shot and Parineeti’s on-going prep.

  • Interestingly, the biopic will open around Olympics 2020, and the spotlight will be on Saina. So, that will further pique the audience’s curiosity around the film…What is the take of Saina on that?

    Releasing my biopic around the Olympics will pose a challenge for me. It’s a real pressure. But I’m also quite assured because it has a lot of masala in it. It will be different from a lot of other sports films. In the middle of my ups and downs, a lot happened, and it makes for great content. Having said that, I can imagine what Parineeti must be feeling about this. As professional badminton players, we, too, are scared, even after all these years, to step on to a court. It must be tough for Parineeti to make it look like she’s been playing for 20 years. I’ve been seeing her practice videos where she is trying to get her shots right. Parineeti is what this film needed. She is the perfect choice to play me on screen.

  • Saina, your parents have played a crucial role in your journey and success. Would you say that it would be impossible to come this far without them by your side?

    Mamma can be stiff competition even today. When I started playing initially, she could beat me at the game. She was strict and disciplined. She has given me the strength and direction to be where I am. I knew nothing about badminton. She knew the sport better than my father and me. However, I must say that my mother found a strong supporter in my father, who participated equally. He would take me to court for practice at 5 am, drop me to school and mamma would take over from there and manage everything else. My mother is emotionally attached to the game. My batchmates would laugh at me when my mother would scold me for silly mistakes. Today, probably they won’t laugh. Mamma hi thi jisne apna saara dedication laga ke, mujhe doodh aur ghee khila pila ke iss layak bana diya. Meri maa nahi hoti toh medal nahi hota. My family encouraged me all the time, especially when I was not performing well in the game; something that even Parineeti’s parents have done for her.

  • With games other than cricket gaining mainstream importance, do you feel the road ahead will be more rewarding for sportspersons (beyond cricketers)?

    Maybe people are bored of cricket (laughs!). On a serious note, no other sport can catch up with cricket in terms of popularity. Yes, other sports are growing by the day and getting a lot of attention because sportspersons are showing promise and delivering results. We are recognised on flights and people are more aware about all kinds of sports and players now. A lot of credit goes to the media and social media, which has made people more aware. As the games and the results improve, people and their attitude will also change. It’s a cycle. When I see wrestlers, athletes and gymnasts getting plum endorsement deals, I feel great because that’s a promising avenue for them to earn and that’s opened up only in recent years. It’s time that we teach our children to work for a medal in sports from a very young age. We can easily defeat a country like China that has a large population like us, but far more medals in sports. That’s the mantra parents need to give to their little ones.

  • Is there any rivalry between you and Saina Nehwal?

    There is a lot of competition between us. A lot of rivalry between us. At the end of the day, she does her own things and I do my own. The rivalry should be there. Indian badminton is doing really well. Since this rivalry is there we know there are more girls coming

  • How is your relation with head coach Gopichand?

    Yes, it is fine. Nothing is wrong. As a player, I have to give my 100 percent. He is giving his 100 percent. At the end of the day we have to get a medal for the country,

  • What was Gopichand’s reaction during the summit clash between you and Saina at Gold Coast 2018

    When we played in Commonwealth, he did not come for any of our matches. He was just standing there. He was just happy that both Indians were playing in the final. As a coach, he is really very happy sitting there. For him, it is a very happy moment when we both are playing. At the end of the day, he is happy if anybody wins

  • On being quizzed what did it feel like to be in top-10, Nehwal answered:

    It is just a great year for me. Unbelievable I can say. So many results at a time. A dream come true to play quarterfinals in Olympics then play semifinals in Super Series events and then win the Junior Common Wealth and World Junior Championships and then to be selected for World Super Series finals and to crack into top-10. Everything is just happening. It is all because of my hard work. And God has been really kind to me.

  • How to be a tough player?

    I don’t know but from my childhood I had the habit to win whatever I am participating in. ..in any event. It is not just badminton. I was actually a very aggressive kind of person. I used to play all the sports. So whatever sport I used to play and I used to see someone else getting more points than me … I just couldn’t stand it. .. Even I have to do that. From my childhood I have got the habit of to do anything for winning. Even my mom has same attitude. She also fights. I think I have got her genes in me which is really working in such a tough sport. Badminton is so tough. Getting into top-10 in this age is really difficult and I have seen so many players working so hard and struggling to get here

  • Who have been your role models?

    I admire Sachin Tendualkar the most. Then Sania Mirza, Kalpana Chawla have also been my inspiration.

  • How do you cope with the pressure of your studies?

    Saina: Well, I like my studies. So I spend three hours every day with my studies.

  • What do you do to relax?

    I read books; watch movies; and spend time in nature. It refreshes me completely.

  • What will your message be to our listeners?

    Well, in order to be excellent, one must work really very hard systematically. And one must never give up in case there are repeated setbacks.

  • You visited Dubai last year and made it to the semi-finals of the BWF Destination Dubai World Superseries Finals in December. How was the experience?

    It was great, actually. I used to fly and play in various parts of the world and I used to wonder why there weren’t that many tournaments happening in Dubai. It was really surprising to see Dubai hosting the Superseries Finals last year. I lost in the semi-finals, but I know I tried my best and I got amazing support from the Indian crowd here and that’s one of the reasons why Dubai is my favourite city to play in. I’m hoping that this year I’ll get even more support as last year was fantastic - I really loved that.

  • What is your advice for the next generation of sports stars?

    There are kids who are getting into different sports and then there are the kids who are getting their inspiration from sportswomen such as myself, [tennis star] Sania Mirza and [boxer] Mary Kom. I visited Dubai recently for the Shuttle Time School Championships and I can see that Dubai is a hub for growing talent, especially the Indian players, who are playing extremely well. I didn’t expect to see them master the game in such a short frame of time.

  • What do you think of Dubai’s sporting facilties such as Hamdan Sports Complex?

    Hamdan Sports Complex is really, one of the best stadiums in the world. It’s a world-class arena. Looking at the way world sports tournaments are being organised here in Dubai, I can definitely see more of them happening on a grand scale, the way it’s meant to be. Not just for badminton, but for [other sports like] tennis and swimming as well.

  • What do you like the most about Dubai?

    It’s rare that I get to see a lot of Dubai when I’m here because of either the tournaments or my schedule. This time, however I did manage to visit a few places around the city. I went to the beach, visited the Burj Khalifa and I’m staying at Al Qasr, which is a gorgeous hotel with an excellent view. I hear so much about Dubai, but there’s nothing like going out and exploring the city for yourself and I’m glad to have seen most of it.

  • Dubai is developing a reputation for great food. What has been your most memorable foodie experience in Dubai?

    Being an Indian, you’re always going to long for Indian food and there’s plenty of that here! While I didn’t have the chance to try some more diverse cuisine here, I was treated to some lovely seafood at Al Qasr. I dined on fish and it was extremely nice, but again, my preference stays with eating Indian food - especially during tournaments. I really don’t try too many new things because, as a player, you have to be really careful of your diet. I’m conscious of that, so I stick to what I know best.

  • Show us your Forehand Net Cross.

  • How did you start your journey in the world of sports?

  • How did it feel being selected at the great olympic quarter finals of 2008 which paved a path to your big win?

  • Can you show us the perfect Backhand Drive?

  • What was going on in your mind when you played the match against PV Sindhu in the Commonwealth Games?

    It was stated from the very first day (of the tournament) that the final will be between two Indians. So, I was ready for that. A day earlier, I played against Kirsty Gilmour and our match went to three sets. I was a bit (more) tired than Sindhu who overpowered her injured opponent in two sets. When the day of the final came, I was confident that I was going to win. The rest was seen in our match. Sindhu was better in the second set and was well ahead of me. But due to a few long rallies, we were both exhausted. But she was more tired and in the end, I won (the last set) — 23-21. It was good that the final was between two Indians and the two medals were ours.

  • What are your thoughts on the PBL (Premiere Badminton League) this year?

    The Premier Badminton League (PBL), starting in Mumbai on Saturday, is being held at the end of the year after a hectic season and at times it does affect the players' bodies, feels star Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal. "Everyone gives their 100 per cent, that's for sure, and wants to win. But it's the end of the year and sometimes it gets to the body. It's not easy for all the players. It's one of the toughest tournaments, but everyone gives their best," said Saina at a PBL pre-season 4 media conference in Mumbai. Saina, who would be leading North Eastern Warriors in the nine-team League, was responding to a query whether the players could replicate in the PBL the intensity with which they normally play in the Super Series events. "It's not the same as a tournament. It is a team event. You enjoy playing a team event. For us it's sometimes like a festival. We see so many matches. Youngsters also benefit. Badminton is growing now because of the performances (of the top shuttlers) and because of the league," insisted the 2012 London Olympic Games women's singles bronze medallist.

  • Tell us how your mother supported you in your pursuit of a career in badminton.

  • Describe your experience and tell us what you learnt facing Asian Games champion Tai Tzu-Ying.

    I need to be quicker and have smooth movements, lot more shots as well, to finish the rallies (against her). Somewhere she will catch you. Every rally is a different rally with her. Most players have set pattern but she has got a variety of shots,” Saina said after the 17-21 14-21 loss. I definitely (need) the hand speed, bit more movement and not give her the chance to play her shots. There’s a special quality. She is someone who is not easy to read. Not all the coaches can read her. As a player I have tried to read but she always comes up with a new shot.” ”...you don’t know where to play her and where to get the points, I was really confused there,” she admitted. “I played well, she played ever better...so you have to be alert there. I tried to do but she has all kind of shots, even if you put her in a difficult position, she comes out of it.” The Indian also said she did not get enough time to prepare for the Games as the event came close on the heels of a gruelling world championships, where she was a quarter finalist. “You have to have that game to beat her, to properly plan...but I tried. It’s not like that you can’t beat her. It’s not impossible. You have to have a complete game because she has those deceptive shots to come out of difficult situations.” “She definitely cracks, but you need to stick on with her till the end,” she insisted. Saina said she is pleased to have won her maiden Asian Games medal in her third attempt after quarterfinal finishes in 2010 and 2014.

  • How would you advise P.V. Sindhu to prepare to take on Tai Tzu-Ying?

    “It’s not like that you cant beat her. It’s not impossible. You have to have a complete game because she has those deceptive shots to come out of difficult situations. “Definitely she cracks, but you need to stick on with her till the end,” Nehwal said. And the 28-year-old believes that despite the past results Sindhu has the game that can trouble Tai. “It would be 50-50. Sindhu is taller and has more option to counter, she can play shots I can’t.” PV Sindhu created history on Monday when she became the first Indian badminton player to reach the Asian Games final. And the 23-year-old will have to get the better of world number one Tai Tzu Ying on Tuesday to get her hands on that gold medal. Nehwal admitted that Tai was probably the most difficult opponent to play because of the variety of strokes she has but insisted that the Chinese Taipei shuttler can crack if not allowed to play to her strengths.

  • You said you were not interested in badminton initially. How did you develop an interest in it?

  • It is said that your mother was a great supporting hand in your journey. How has she helped you?

  • Having already won a bronze in the Olympics, you still have the dream for winning a Gold ,so how are you approaching the preparation ,are you following the same dedicated schedule or is there some new training?

  • How difficult is the challenge in competing against the international world champions especially the players from China,Japan ,Indonesia and Spain who have a strong women’s badminton team?

  • How was training under the Nani Prasad and Govardhan coaching duo different from the coaching under Pullela Gopichand?

  • With the Olympics on the horizon, you are India’s biggest hope in badminton. Are the expectations of the country a burden on you? Does the pressure affect you?

    Not at all. I am a professional athlete and pressure is a part of every professional sport. It will be a dream come true for me if I could defeat the Chinese on my way to a medal, so if there’s pressure, there’s also incentive. As of  now, I am doing rigorous training for the Olympics with P. Gopi Chandji, so things are looking up at this moment.

  • Can you tell us about your training schedule?

    My training Schedule is 6 to 7 hours per day except Sundays. It includes different types of exercises, court play, practice matches, gym and amusement and stamina building, all under the guidance of my coach Gopi Chand sir. I am a very active person and I love working out so I almost never skip my training sessions. I believe at the international level, it is fitness that counts the most. That’s because when you are competing at that level, everyone already has the skills; the player who wins is the player whose mental and physical fitness is better than his/her opponent. So yes, at the international level, fitness is absolutely paramount.

  • You had been signed up by Olympic Gold Quest. What role has it played in your success?

    Yes, the OGQ (Olympic Gold Quest) provided me with moral and financial support and with all the facilities that I require for my game. They are  like this big, powerful force behind me. My job is to produce results that match their expectations, and that has been a strong motivating factor for me. The OGQ also supports players from other games and raises funds to provide financial backup for players across a wide variety of sports, so yeah, I think the OGQ has been doing a very good job developing the state of sports in India.

  • What do you do in your leisure time when you are not playing badminton?

    I get very little leisure time, and even in that time I constantly formulate strategies to win matches. But I like to go shopping in my free time. I also make it a point to catch up on my sleep in my off days. Occasionally I’ll go and check out the latest Hindi movie release.

  • How was the pressure while playing Sindhu in the 2018 Commonwealth Games?

    In 2010, I was only 20, so I did not realise what pressure was all about. This time, it was much more as Sindhu is our higher-ranked player, and she was injured. As the senior player, there was pressure on me to deliver. I played all the matches and won. I enjoyed defeating the new generation of women players.

  • How did you approach the Commonwealth final? You have a better head-to-head record against Sindhu. What did coach Gopichand tell you?

    Since we both are Gopi sir’s wards, we did not use his services. He was out of the arena. He had, however, prepared us to play against each other. The head-to-head record was of not much importance, as the fight was very intense.I knew that the medal will be with us. So, the overall pressure was low. I went into the final against Sindhu to win it for my honour. God helped, and I played with confidence and with all my ability.

  • How tough was recovery between matches?

    Fitness and accuracy were the main issues, as I had to play on all days of the tournament. I was well prepared skill-wise, and I followed all the routines given by Gopi sir. I am thankful to my support staff—Pedra Christopher of Kokilaben Hospital, Mumbai, and our physio Johnson sir.

  • How would you describe your experience at the 2018 Commonwealth Games?

    I cried that night after long journey when they said father does not have accreditation.I will fight for my parents or people who are close to me, the respect should be there, it is not about the money, I will pay whatever is there, it is not right to insult someone after reaching there.I have to focus, I had to play the team championship in two days. Thankfully Gopi sir (coach P Gopichand) was not there, first day I did not even go for practise because I was upset. If Gopi sir was there, he would have said it is not right for someone coming to the Games, such a big event but I had to take a stand. Of course it is bad but I just wanted everything to be settled fast and I can get back to practice. Finally, I was happy my dad was there to witness me winning two golds and that was a blessing for me to have him, Gopi sir and everything was right and I become a great daughter fighting for my dad, after winning it.

  • What was the challenge of facing someone from your own country?

    It is challenging to play someone from your own country," she said. "More tough to play someone you know. Gopi sir spoke to us not so much about match but about how to behave and react after match. "He told us, 'make sure you both are friendly and happy with each other's performance'," Saina added.

  • What made you leave coaching under Pullela Gopichand?

  • The 2010 Commonwealth Games was a life-changing event for you. Could you tell us what exactly was going through your head when you were told India could come second if you won?

  • How did you break through the 2016 Rio Olympics ,despite the many professional rumours that were going on?

  • How did you face challenges of bouncing back up and facing competition when people thought you had become a “has-been”especially after the 2016 injuries?

  • How was the experience going up against Lind Ann and Lee Chongway?