She was the ‘QUEEN’ of the Indian Badminton scene. The first Indian to win the Bronze medal at the Olympics, first to be ranked World No.1, first to win BWF Super Series title, and many other achievements.
Saina Nehwal rose to fame when she ended up as a runner-up at the 2006 World Junior Badminton Championships, she was just 16yrs old. Her first breakthrough was in 2009 when she won Indonesian Open. She is the 1st Indian to win a BWF title. Saina has won over 24 international titles and 11 of them are BWF Super Series trophies. Saina has contributed heavily to popularise women’s Badminton in India. One cannot write modern-day Indian sports without mentioning her.
Saina now aged 31yrs is probably at the penultimate end of her career. She has been in the top flight for over 15yrs, arguably the longest run for a player in badminton. In the last few years, injuries have kept her out of the court and the main reason for her slip out of BWF top-10 ranking and out of Olympics 2021. In a sport like badminton which is physically demanding, a player has to train for 6-8hrs a day rigorously and constantly on the move from country to country, tournament-after-tournament, it is very difficult to cope with injuries as you age.
Arvind Bhat, German Open winner, former India No.1, and one of very few players who won a major title at the age of 35yrs feels, “Any sportsperson who has achieved something to the level that Saina has achieved cannot be ruled out easily. I feel that if she can have the right attitude even now and make the necessary sacrifices and hard work, then she can get back to winning ways and top-flight badminton. It’s very hard to predict if she can become No. 1 in the world or make it to another Olympics. But definitely, she can come back to the top 5 in the world ranking. Take the eg of top tennis players which is an equally demanding sport. They are peaking at the age of 31yrs even now. They continue their career until 36-38yrs. They invest in a good Physio and trainer so that careers can be prolonged. This is something Saina can do too. Hence we cannot or rather should not rule out someone like Saina. I would love to see her get back to the top and prove her critics wrong”
Former national coach U Vimal Kumar concludes, “Saina Nehwal is currently going through the toughest phase of her career and faces a tough road ahead.”
Given her never say never attitude Saina still can bounce back and continue the run.