INDIA’S Saina Nehwal (pic) has shed tears too many times over badminton. And the many struggles have only made the talented youngster a stronger person.
A passport problem almost saw her missing the trip in the ongoing Super Series Masters Finals in Kota Kinabalu. But, being the resilient person that she is, she took matters into her own hands to see to it that she made it for the prestigious tournament.
And her persistence paid off when she booked a place in the semi-finals as the Group B runner-up. She defeated Pi Hongyan of France and Malaysia’s Wong Mew Choo yesterday.
“I almost did not make it. I was invited because China’s players withdrew. There were no more empty pages on my passport. I thought I could settle the matter within days but it took longer than expected,” said Saina, who will take on Wang Chen of Hong Kong in today’s semi-final.
“I had to go to the government office on my own to ask them to expedite it. I cried when they were unable to help me. Finally, the media highlighted the matter and I got it in time,” she said.
She also wept after becoming the first Indian woman shuttler to reach the quarter-finals at the Beijing Olympics. She lost to Indonesia’s Maria Kristin Yulianti.
“I was very disappointed. I cried a lot and could not sleep for three to four days. I could have played better,” she said.
The defeat, however, made the 18-year-old even more determined and she enjoyed some of her best moments in badminton after that.
She won the world junior title, bagged the Taiwan Open title; reached the semi-finals of the China Open, captured the Badminton World Federation’s (BWF) Most Promising Player award; and is now ranked 10th in the world.
“It is great to end the year as the world number ten for the first time. I think playing in the Beijing Olympics was a turning point for me in my career. More people know about me now,” said Saina, who trains under former All-England champion P. Gopichand.
“I was weak in defence and my back hand returns are poor. But I am working on them to complement my good attacking game.”