Former World No. 1 Saina Nehwal is back to her court sessions in Bangalore after a few months break, and working hard for the upcoming China Open Superseries Premier, which starts from November 15. With over twenty international titles under her name, which include ten Superseries titles, she has had a topsy-turvy year so far, marred with injuries.
In the last four years, India’s shuttlers have put in excellent performances at various global competitions, and have been giving their Chinese and Malaysian competitors a run for their money. Among them, one player stood out, shouldering the burden of expectations of a billion people and some of her own.
Saina always had a point to prove, not only to the nation but to herself as well. The Hyderabadi has achieved as much as any Indian fan could have hoped for, making sure that badminton remains a widely-followed sport in the country.
From contemplating quitting the sport in 2014 to becoming the World Number 1 in 2015, her journey has been peppered with several poignant moments. The ace shuttler has been successful not only because of her talent but her determination, mental strength, and enthusiasm. She has been a shining beacon of world badminton for nearly a decade now and it is no surprise that her climb up the ladder of badminton greatness has been swift and meteoric.
In a recent interview with ESPN, Saina said with a heavy heart, “It is okay, many people will think my career will end and I won’t come back. I also think somewhere deep in my heart that maybe it is the end of my career, so let’s see how it is. Maybe, you never know.”
Such statements coming from India’s favorite shuttler are little hard to digest. And she has enough reasons to feel that way. And that is because we are very quick to forget someone’s achievements and write them off instead of standing next to them and motivating them during their bad times. After PV Sindhu’s medal-winning feat at Rio de Janeiro, ecstatic fans took to Twitter and Facebook to post congratulatory messages. Some ‘fans’ decided to give ‘advice’ to Saina Nehwal, who was nursing an injury in the right knee and got eliminated quite early.
Saina later said, “I will be more than happy if people think I am finished, it is nice in a way, people think a lot about me, maybe now they won’t.”
Isn’t it like cheering a player when he scores a goal and throwing stones at him, when he misses a penalty? Sadly, we never really try to understand the situation, rather believe in giving the verdict. Two weeks before boarding the flight for the much acclaimed Olympics, she ended up hurting her knee. Like any other determined sportsperson, she didn’t want to give the Games a miss and went ahead to compete. The knee did hurt as the London Olympics bronze medallist haltingly wrapped up the first round match and it continued to hurt after the World No. 5 had left the court, losing 18-21, 19-21 to World No. 61 Maria Ulitina in the second round.
Two weeks before boarding the flight for the much acclaimed Olympics, she ended up hurting her knee. Like any other determined sportsperson, she didn’t want to give the Games a miss and went ahead to compete. The knee did hurt as the London Olympics bronze medallist haltingly wrapped up the first round match and it continued to hurt after the World No. 5 had left the court, losing 18-21, 19-21 to World No. 61 Maria Ulitina in the second round.
This isn’t really the first time she succumbed to an injury. After dominating the Junior World Championships in 2009 and before breaking into the senior echelon, she suffered a shoulder niggle. The troubled shoulder, refrained her from playing the National Badminton Championships in early 2009 but the girl was back at the All England Super Series in March after a month’s recovery.
She had an astounding 2010, bagging a gold in Commonwealth Games and three other Super Series titles but sustained an ankle injury in December, which took a toll on her performance in the entire 2011 season. But she overcame those issues a couple of months before the 2012 Olympics and went on to win the historic bronze medal at the Games. She also pulled out of the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, after failing to recover from a groin injury and leg blisters that she sustained during her march to the title at the Australian Open Super Series a month before the Games. Again, in the later part of 2015, her game, especially court movements, got severely restricted due to a pelvic and Achilles tendon injuries. She did recover from them in early 2016 and got back with her Olympics preparations.
There are so many players who have made comebacks post surgeries. Surgeries and injuries are part of a player’s life. The way a woman is not complete without her jewelries, a player is incomplete too without injuries. It indeed takes a long time to get back to the former glory, post injuries and surgeries, depending on its intensity. Joint injuries (ankle, knee, wrist, shoulder) take a lot of time and patience to recover completely.
Saina Nehwal is one strong woman, who has overcome many obstacles in her life, and these injuries can never back her down. We clap at her laurels but she didn’t take this sport on her own.
“I started playing badminton because my parents liked this sport, I didn’t like it. I just wanted to give my best and win as much as possible. I am happy that I have won so much – the number one ranking, an Olympic medal, a World Championship medal, stood on the podium for all the big events – so I am happy about that,” she said.
So, a woman who has achieved so much regardless of not liking the sport, we can only imagine how much more she can achieve now, that she is hungry to make a strong comeback. She has won many matches for the nation only because of her strong willpower and determination. We have never seen her giving in to the opponent’s dominance, rather always holding onto her strong mental power.
On the other hand, she is someone who has achieved a lot in her professional life, till date. It’s her love and passion for the game which has made her decide to make a comeback post the dreadful knee surgery. Let’s not thrust our decisions on her but rather let her play her game the way she wants it.
Saina, the knee will hurt but we all know that you will overcome it, like you have always done and make us more proud, again.