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Fit again, Saina has her eyes set on the All England Championship

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Saina Nehwal (Image Credit: Thefamouspeople.com)

Kolkata: When a champion exudes confidence, it boosts up the morale of his or her fans. For shuttler, Saina Nehwal, injury has been a bane for her last year, but the good news is that she is hundred per cent fit and all geared up for the All England Championship set to begin in Birmingham on March 7. The runners-up in 2015 (when she lost to Spaniard Carolina Marin in the final), Saina is ready for action.

“My target is to be one of the best badminton players in the world and facing strong opposition from best players is the real enjoyment of playing badminton,” Saina was quoted by PTI. “I was runners-up in 2015 All England Championship but facing Carolina (Marin) was a very big task. She overpowered me and won the title. I am fine and well-trained now so I am ready to face my opponents,” added Saina who will face defending champion Nozomi Okuhara of Japan (herself struggling with a shoulder injury) in the first round. Meanwhile, fellow Hyderabadi, PV Sindhu faces Denmark’s Mette Poulsen in the first round.

On the draw, Saina said, “The draw is good. I guess it is not an issue who I am facing, it is all about giving your best out of the best learning. Let us see how the matches go.”

Saina claimed that she had fully recovered from the knee injury that hampered her prospects in the Rio Olympics last year. The 26-year-old badminton ace from Hyderabad has played in the China, Hong Kong and Macau Opens in 2016 and the Premier Badminton League in January this year, after returning to the court post-surgery. She managed a triumph in the Malaysia Masters Grand Prix Gold, but later gave the Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold in Lucknow a miss to prepare for the Super Series starting with the All England.

“I did not have enough time to train hard before the Malaysia Masters. But now I am fit, I have no injury issues. Practising hard under the watchful eyes of my coach for at least a fortnight prior to major tournaments is the most optimal time,” said Saina. And the London Olympic bronze medallist added, “I got enough time to train on full speed after Malaysia Open. I have been training under the guidance of Vimal Sir, keeping the new trend of the game in mind.”

Elaborating on her training, Saina said, “Mr Umendra Rana is also helping me as my sparring partner during training. He is from Sports Authority of India. Training is followed by stretching which also is very essential and Mr Arvind Nigam is a very sincere physio. He helps me a lot in the proper conditioning of my body after heavy training.”

On a different note, Saina who was appointed a member of the International Olympic Committee’s (IOC) Athletes’ Commission in October, 2016 said due to her schedule, she had not been able to make it to the meetings, but hopefully she would attend a meeting in July. “I’m an IOC AC member and recently they have nominated me for BWF AC as a liaison between players in BWF and IOC AC. I haven’t attended most of the meetings of IOC AC but I may attend the meetings slated for July,” she said.

Fingers crossed for the time being as two Indian Olympic medal winners Saina and Sindu gun for glory in the all-important tournament.

(With inputs from PTI)