Ace Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal is just 20. But she has achieved what no other Indian woman has ever accomplished- zoomed into the top-five of the world. She has broken the Chinese hegemony of the sport and established herself as one of the top icons in India. She idolizes tennis ace Roger Federer and wants to emulate his feats on the badminton court. In a candid chat with Zeenews.com’s Biswajit Jha, Saina told that she wants to take it one step at a time; and winning as many tournaments, not the No. 1 ranking, is her priority as of now.
You have broken into the top five of the world…did you ever dreamt of this when you started playing badminton?
To be honest, I did not expect to break into the top-five so early. But, anyway, I am so happy that I reached top five. It’s a dream come true for me.
What are your next targets?
My next targets are - breaking into top-three rankings in the world and winning as many tournaments as possible. I want to do well in Delhi Commonwealth Games as well.
Are you sure you’re not looking for the No. 1 rank?
Not yet. I want to achieve milestones, one at a time.
What about London Olympics in 2012?
Winning a medal in Olympics is everyone’s dream and so is mine. I came close to achieving that in Beijing. But London Olympics
is still too far away, and I am not thinking about it as of now.
You have been also awarded Padma Shree recently….it’s such a big honour at such a young age…
I am honoured that the government has given me Padma Shree.
What is the secret of your phenomenal success over the last two years?
I think there is no substitute for hard work. One needs to have discipline and dedication in life to achieve goals.
How is the legendary Gopichand as a coach?
He is fantastic. He is very strict in his work-ethics, which helps me compete with the world’s best.
You have broken the Chinese hegemony in badminton. Comment.
Though I am the only player outside China in the top five, I don’t feel I have broken their hegemony as yet.
What, in your opinion, is the reason for their success in the game?
They are physically and mentally strong. Besides, they get world class infrastructure and coaches that help them grow into formidable players.
I talked to you before Beijing Olympics
…you were not a star that time. In the last two years, you have achieved so many things. How do you describe your journey in last couple of years?
I have achieved a lot during the past two years. I have won a lot of tournaments and established myself as one of the top players in the world. Actually, the performance in Beijing Olympics gave me recognition as one of the top shuttlers in the world.
You had told me that you needed to improve your defensive game. How much have you improved in that aspect of badminton?
My defensive game has improved drastically. This is the reason of my success these days. Now, I want to work hard so that I remain strong physically and mentally.
Tell me Saina, who is your idol?
My idol is Roger Federer. Though he is a tennis player, I look up to him as he is determined in achieving his goals. His winning habit and discipline in life are something that I want to emulate.
You are the brand ambassador of IPL team Deccan Chargers. Are you a cricket buff?
I am not a cricket buff, but yeah I follow cricket. I love my Deccan Chargers team. I wish they win IPL this year too. They have some very good players like Gilchrist and Symonds.
Do you think cricket is hampering the growth of other sports in India?
No…every sport has its own place.
Who are your cricketing heroes?
Sachin Tendulkar and Adam Gilchrist. I like Sachin the way he approaches his game. I like the calmness in him.
Have you talked to Gilchrist?
I have met him, but never got the chance to talk to him. Hopefully, this year I’ll get to have a chat with him.
Do you follow Bollywood?
Yes…I watch a lot of movies.
Who are your favourite actor and actress?
It’s Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol. They are great as an on-screen pair.
Do you have any acting ambition in future?
I just want to concentrate on badminton as of now. But if I get any offer after my retirement, I will love to do a Bollywood film (laughs).
Thanks Saina…I, on behalf of the Zeenews.com team, congratulate you for your entry into top-five club, and wish that you soon reach the No. 1 rank.