New Delhi: Comebacks are never easy in sports, more so when you have been competing at the highest level for close to a decade. But for Saina Nehwal, who should rightfully be hailed as Indian badminton’s first global superstar, it was about reminding people of her status as a champion athlete.
An injury-prone 2016 saw her performances and ranking dip, but the Hyderabadi girl is back with a bang in 2017 as she silenced her critics by lifting the Malaysia Masters trophy.
Speaking exclusively to News18.com, the 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist said that she is on recovery mode and will keep doing her best to compete at the highest level.
"Victory was hard fought in Malaysia. I defeated everybody in two games till the final. In the final, the score was 22-20, 22-20, which indicates that how much that teenager was willing to win. I am on recovery mode and in safe hands of physio Arvind Nigam and trainer. I am doing training with Vimal sir to best of my abilities," Saina Nehwal told News18 Sports in an e-mail interview.
"It happens in sports. After a major surgery the comeback is very hard. With the grace of almighty and doctors, I prevailed over that. I am thankful to my coach, physio and trainer for the same. People have started to believe in me."
"The thoughts in mind after surgery are difficult. It looks that I am not fully cured and something I am suffering, but we have to forget the past and believe in present to come well. It is very hard to forget the ordeal," the former world number one said.
After regaining her fitness, Saina Nehwal made it to the quarterfinals at Macau Open and Hong Kong Open before guiding Awadhe Warriors to the semi-finals of the Premier Badminton League (PBL).
"I was not actively playing for three months. After surgery I was in rehab. I could not sit outside but used to go for practice. When I felt that I am fit and can play, I hit the court," the 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist said.
Saina also hailed the role of her coach Vimal Kumar who played a vital role in her comeback.
"My coaches did wonderful work to me. They (Vimal sir and Umendra sir) encouraged me and motivated at the same time. They told me not to be worried. The support staff was of immense help to me. They were monitoring me almost every minute of day. They used to watch my progress during rehab," a fit-again Saina said.
"I will try to be focused and injury free," said Saina, who became the first Indian ever to win a Super Series Title in 2009 by winning the Indonesia Open in June.
Saina won a silver medal at the prestigious All England Championship in 2015, where she lost to Carolina Marin in the summit clash.
On being asked about her chances this year, the star shuttler said:"I have just come out of injury and still 2 months are remaining, my hard work will tell me my progress."
PV Sindhu’s silver medal winning feat at the 2016 Rio Games has catapulted her to global stardom. Saina too is happy for the young star's success and hailed her compatriot for doing the country proud.
The former world number one was all praise for the Premier Badminton League, saying that the tournament was a breeding ground for talented Indian players who could rub shoulders with the best in the world.
"It is correct, Indian youth and aspiring players enjoyed playing the PBL. Youngsters plays with world class players. More tournaments like PBL will help youngsters win laurels for India in badminton," Saina signed off.