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7-min read

PBL Has Helped Indian Players Beat Chinese & Koreans Consistently: Saina Nehwal

Ace India shuttler Saina Nehwal feels that Premier Badminton League has helped Indian players beat top players from China and Korea more consistently now.

Meha Bhardwaj | CNN-News18bhardwajmeha

Updated:January 4, 2018, 10:04 PM IST

New Delhi: Ace India shuttler Saina Nehwal feels that Premier Badminton League has helped Indian players beat top players from China and Korea more consistently now. In an exclusive chat with CNN News18's Meha Bhardwaj, Saina said that earlier it was difficult for sportspersons to earn good money but with leagues like PBL coming in, things have changed for thhe good.

Here is the transcript of the entire exclusive conversation -

Q: For fans PBL is like a dream come true, but as a player what stands out for you in this edition of PBL?

A: It was difficult to earn money for other sports-persons in this country apart from cricketers. Back in 2003, I never thought such a league can be a reality in our country. The advent of PBL has changed a lot of things. I never thought that we could beat a Chinese or a Korean. All of this has changed after the PBL. Look how the players are now training, they are more professional now.

Q: This was an important year as you were making a comeback from injury. Physical aspect is fine, but what about the mental aspect? Did you ask yourself whether you will be able to lunge forward to take that shot?

A: People feel we athletes are tough but we are very emotional from inside. We know we have to fight it out on the court but it's not easy. If I say it was easy to recover from the injury, then I would be lying. It was my parents who helped me to cope up with this. During those time, my mother used to ask me: 'I am going to the gym, you wanna come?' And I used to say: 'No I don't want to' because it used to hurt. I went through a surgery at the time and it's not easy. Injuries are fine but surgery takes you back to zero. I thought this year will be tough but by the time the World Championship came, I was again beating some of the best players in the world.

Q: Your sporting hero is Roger Federer, and when you see someone like Federer, or our very own Mary kom, you feel age is just a number. Looking at these examples, don't you feel you have a lot of badminton left in you?

A: Ours is the only generation which quits playing at 26-27. Previous generation played till they were 34. Zhang Ning when she won at Olympics at 34. It's not like, at this age you can't bend or you can't move. You just have to maintain your body. It takes time to make a comeback. People think 'she can do it.' I am also a human being.

Q: The other big decision is going back to where it all began. A lot has been said about your relation with National Badminton coach Pullela Gopichand. Set the record straight for our viewers, what has been your relationship with him and what made you comeback at his academy?

A: When I left the academy, at that point I was world number 2. By the end of 2013, I was losing a number of games which made me realize that I am not doing some things right. I need to learn a lot and I need to improve on some aspects of the game. And that time, there were a lot of players who were training at the academy under Gopi sir. And he was busy looking after everyone. It was tough as I wasn't a naturally talented player, I had to learn a lot of things. I thought there was something wrong.

I spoke to Gopi sir about it and he said if you want to make some changes you go ahead with it. And sometime a change in atmosphere helps. And I never told the media that I am parting ways with him forever. So I went to Vimal sir. After two years, I had the surgery and I was again felt that I was stuck and I also suffered from homesickness. Then I spoke to Gopi sir in Scotland during the World Championship and before I could say something, he himself asked me 'what's your plan.....'. It's all good between us. He is a like a father figure to me.

Q: How has your relationship with him (Gopichand) evolved?

A: It's still the same, how can it change. Before I utter a word he understands what's in my mind. I call him 'bhaiya' and even in the gym he is the one who guides me. He never shouts at me. If you want any advice about food and diet, he is the best person.

Q: Is it frustrating at times when people constantly pit you against Sindhu?

A: It's everywhere... in Bollywood, in Cricket. The rivalry thing is everywhere and it helps in improving your game. Sindhu has been playing well and the training which she did last year has helped her achieve results. When you achieve so much for the country, people are going to compare. At that point of time, I never thought that winning can cost you so much. I came into badminton and won so many tournaments because I had it in me and nobody can take that thing away from me. Even in the nationals against her, I was 50% fit in that game. But on the International level, Sindhu is a little better at the moment because she can last a bit longer in rallies. I am fine taking on some players but for some players I need my peak fitness like Yamaguchi or Okuhura. But some players like Carolina or Sindhu, I can still try and beat them with this fitness. But some Korean or Japanese players can only be beaten with peak fitness. Sindhu has got that at the moment and that's why she is winning.

Q: 2018 is an important year, you have All England, Commonwealth, Asian Games plus Superseries!

A: We have 16 superseries some of them are optional. We can miss Asian Games which is just five days after the Commonwealth Games. At least for this year, BWF could have given us a little bit more time, they could have planned well. They should plan fewer tournaments with big prize money and better media coverage. A champion has to be invincible, BWF has so many tournaments and that's why it is going to get so many champions. In one tournament you would have Carolina, in one tournament you would have Yamguchi. So it becomes open which is good. BWF should make sure that people have time to recuperate.

Q: Coming back to PBL, you have Kidambi Srikanth in your team. When was the last time you two had a conversation and what was that about?

A: I am shy, I don't open up so easily. I only talk to a group of people. Because I started playing with Sai Praneeth and Guru Sai Dutt, our friendship goes back 15-16 years. We are very close. Prannoy is close to me, Kashyap is close to me. Srikanth is a nice person, even in the morning I was teasing him about how he was hitting his strokes on the line. But yes, I am not friends with these people but we talk.

Q: I am going to ask a 21 rapid fire questions -

Favourite phrase that you use very often:

"Zyada ho raha hai tera"

One thing that not many people know about you:

I am shy, they think I am showing attitude or something

Last book you read:

I hardly read books

Last movie you watched:

Tiger zinda hai

Favourite song in your playlist right now:

Swag se karenge swagat

One thing you would like to change about yourself:

To spend more time with my Dad

Favourite food:

Aloo Paratha, Jalebi

Dogs or cats:


Favorite piece of clothing:

Jeans and shirt

Your BFF:

Kashyap, Guru, Sai Praneeth, Prannoy.

Favorite thing about yourself:

My smile

What's the best advice given to you:

When I think "ki nahi ho ga yaar" and somebody say You are a champion and you can do so much

A person you admire the most:

I used to love Taufeeq when I started playing.

One thing you wanna become better at:

That will be my game.

One talent you would love to have:

Anything besides my game, like singing or cooking

Biggest dream:

Olympic medal

Craziest thing you have done:

I danced recently

Biggest sacrifice for badminton:

I left home, went to Bangalore and stayed there for three years.

Sporting Idol:

Taufeeq Hidayat, also Roger Federer

Player to beat in 2018:

Tai Tzu Ying

New Year resolution:

Need to take care of my diet...and to stay fit, injury free

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| Edited by: Pratik Sagar
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