Bangalore: With a Super Series title in her bag, Saina Nehwal can afford to relax and savour the moment. But not for long, as the Malaysian Open GP begins this week and she will have to get battle-ready all over again.
But beyond her immediate task at the Malaysian Open, the Indian will have to get used to her automatic elevation as one of the favourites for the World Championships on home turf in August. Given the media attention in the run-up to the event, Saina can expect to be closely followed and talked-about.
The Indonesian title makes her only one among four or five players capable of resisting China’s juggernaut. Tine Rasmussen (Denmark), Zhou Mi and Wang Chen (both former Chinese internationals playing for Hong Kong), Pi Hongyan (China-born Frenchwoman), Wong Mew Choo (Malaysia) are the only players who have breached the Chinese wall.
Of these, Rasmussen is in her late twenties, while Zhou Mi, Wang Chen and Pi Hongyan are on the wrong side of the 30s. Malaysian Wong Mew Choo has had recurring knee problems.
In effect, therefore, Saina Nehwal is not only the one who will spearhead the world’s resistance to China, but the only one who’s likely to do it over the next decade!
Coach Gopichand told DNA that their immediate challenge would be to work on areas of concern, and not worry about whether the Chinese and others were studying her. "She might lose a few matches, but she should not let that worry her," said former national coach Vimal Kumar. "The challenge will be for her to maintain her focus at a high level for every tournament."
Saina has everything she needs to become a world champion. But the competition is intense, and perhaps the next step could be for her to build a personal team, headed by her coach Gopichand, that travels with her. Aids like video analysis and scrutiny of statistical datamight be of use to her.
On current form, Saina is a favourite for every major tournament. How quickly she can become No 1 — and how long she can stay there — is not yet apparent.