Three finals in three months. And, two titles: the India Open Grand Prix Gold in January and the India Open in March. Saina Nehwal is on a dream run, but she has had no time to celebrate. As the new world No 1, she needs to consolidate her position with a podium finish at the Malaysia Open Superseries Premier. The rest of the season is chock-a-block with competitions. But then, Saina knows that, being No 1, she will have to run just to stand still. Excerpts from an interview.
How do you feel being the world No 1?
I am feeling a little relaxed after getting to know that I will become world No 1 once the Badminton World Federation releases its rankings on April 2. I do not care about numbers, but my fans and badminton experts gave the news to me. It is great to be No 1. I will give my best to maintain this.
What are the kind of efforts that you had to put in to reach the top?
My coach Vimal Kumar gives me valuable tips. I learnt to build stamina, agility and endurance. I was playing and winning tournaments, and my fans gave me great love. I have 5.2 million followers on Facebook. I thank them for their support.
How do you plan to stay at the peak?
This is possible only by playing at my best. I will give 100 per cent for it.
How do you deal with the pressure of expectations of fans?
I am happy with my fans. I respond to their queries whenever required.
In the past few years, you have put in a lot of effort to overcome injuries.
It is God's grace that I am hale and hearty. I take full care of injuries.
How did your team support you in staying fit, both mentally and physically?
Vimal sir gave me the best training. I am thankful to him. I enjoy his training and respect him.
Who do you think is your biggest opponent?
First, the Chinese players, followed by any good player in the world.
What is your game plan against the Chinese?
The Chinese are well-trained and have the best facilities. Their diet is different. They live in a different environment, so they acclimatise themselves to cold faster than us. They have more coaches than us.
Now, our government, too, has improved sports infrastructure. The number of coaches has also gone up. Now, I am ready to take on the Chinese. We have to be dedicated to beat them.
You have scaled the peak. Yet, you have kept your feet firmly on the ground.
I am a badminton player from India. That is my identity. I do not want more than that. Vimal sir is very nice to me. My physio helps me recover from injuries. My parents give me moral support. The Sports Authority of India and the Badminton Authority of India encourage me to use their facilities to train more and win tournaments. I am very happy that all of them are helping me to become the best in badminton.
What is your next dream?
My dream is to do my best in the coming tournaments. I want to win a medal for my country at the Rio Olympics. I will have to outdo myself to remain No 1.
WITH ADDITIONAL INPUTS