Saina Nehwal: The Pride of India

She is the pride of India who has inspired young girls and budding talents towards badminton – Saina Nehwal, the girl with grit and determination. The Haryana-born, former Andhra Pradesh player and now brand ambassador for Telengana recently won the USD 7,00,000 China Open Super Series Premier tournament against Akane Yamaguchi of Japan, both players displaying immense game and skills on court. In a well-fought match with the Japanese 17-year old, Akane, Saina Nehwal succeeded in clinching her third title of the year after winning the Australian Super Series and the Syed Modi International Grand Prix.

An Olympic bronze-medallist, Saina has her eyes on winning a gold medal at the Olympics. With her upbeat performances this year, that day doesn’t seem far away when the Indian flag will reach the highest on the Olympic podium. Currently, Saina Nehwal is World No. 3.

Saina’s journey

With her hard work and performance, Saina Nehwal has attracted many youngsters. She is considered a role model and a famous celebrity among all sportsmen. Born in Hyderabad, Saina Nehwal has badminton in her blood as both her parents were former State badminton champions in Haryana. Saina Nehwal was introduced to the game of badminton at an early age of 9, and was coached by S M Arif, Dronacharya Awardee. Her passion for the sport was recognized by coaches since the beginning and her talent was honed to bring out the best in her.

The first achievement came to Saina Nehwal in the form of a gold medal when she bagged the Czechoslovakia Junior Open in 2003. That was a new era for Indian badminton. A woman making badminton popular with her talent caught the attention of all media, coaches and players. Her first title gave her motivation to achieve more laurels to her career.

In 2008, she brought a smile to every Indian face by becoming the first Indian to win the World Junior Badminton Championship. Saina Nehwal, whose name is often mispelt by many as Sania Nehwal, confusing with the first name of India’s ace tennis player Sania Mirza, created a niche for herself and made her own identity. She became a celebrity and she never looked back, adding success upon success, bringing glory to her name and game. Saina Nehwal became a known face all over the world, and received the honor of ‘The Most Promising Player.’

Not only that, within a year she became the first Indian to clinch a victory in the Super Series Tournament of Indonesia Open in 2009, which added Arjuna Award to her achievements. She went on winning a gold medal in the 2010 Commonwealth Games and later on the Swiss Open Grand Prix in 2011. Her uninterrupted and astounding performances brought Indian badminton in a positive light and Saina was chosen for the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna Award in 2011.

The youngster has high ambitions and wants to reign the badminton world. The ace shuttler is not afraid to work harder and work on her faults. Nehwal has her eyes on the Olympic gold now. She has set an example for women with her highly influential performances and hard slog.

Saina’s schooling and training

The 24-year-old Saina has had to compromise on her studies and examinations as well. Due to her participation in the Melbourne Commonwealth Games, she could not appear for her first year intermediate examinations. She couldn’t even appear for the supplementary examinations as she was playing in the Philippines at that time. Since the age of 8, Saina went through rigorous training and travelled almost 50 km to be present for her badminton training. She knows the value of hard work because she has faced the tough situations and fought against them. It would be a surprise to many, that the current World No. 3 once received only Rs. 300 as an award after she won the U-10 State level tournament in year 1999. The first Indian girl to reach the singles quarterfinals at the Olympics, Saina has given Indian badminton an immense souvenir by reaching the number 3 rank. We all hope to see her at number 1 soon!

Another Gopichand 

Saina Nehwal’s recent achievements speak itself for her. As soon as she enters the badminton court, the anger and passion to win a particular title scares her opponents, just like Gopichand’s presence worried his opponents. The way she clinches her titles in just 15 to 20 minutes makes people wonder if she is another Gopichand or perhaps a replica of the great legend. Well, Saina’s India-born coach, Thomas John believes that Saina has more potential and that she might prove to be better than Gopichand also.

There are huge expectations from Saina at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne next year and the coach assures all National titles to his well-trained student. Saina trains at Gopichand’s new academy in Hyderabad and is watched, trained and monitored by her idol Gopichand, which is one reason for her improved strategies and game on court and productive success. A player, to be successful, surely has to learn to train according to his/her best points but understanding and manipulating the opponents game is also an art. With experienced coaches, players gain access to such tricks and tactics.

Gopichand has a great hand in Saina’s success too. The Gopichand Academy will send the talented Saina to Holland or Denmark for further training and exposure. Saina Nehwal has always been open about comments whether it’s about her success or failures in her badminton journey. She never shied away from talking about her weaknesses and working on it to display an improved performance.

Earlier, a bit unsure and confused about her net play, flexibility and versatility, Saina Nehwal trained for longer hours under supervised coaching and came over her weaknesses emerging as the World No.3. It’s not the only physical aspect that a sportsman needs to look upon, it is also about developing your mental state against your opponents and the obsession to win with your mental dexterity at the international level. Saina has achieved higher awards while working on all aspects and emerged as one of the best Indian sportspersons.

On Satyamev Jayate and Kapil’s Comedy Nights 

It’s not only the badminton circuits where Saina Nehwal has gained popularity; she’s all over the television sets on famous shows like Satyamev Jayate and Kapil’s Comedy Nights as well as advertisements. With her promising show, Saina got a sponsor in 2002 – sports brand Yonex. With her growing success, the number of sponsors also enlarged. In year 2004, Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited signed the star youngster. She is also supported by Olympic Gold Quest and is the brand ambassador of Sahara India Pariwar. In addition to all this, Saina endorses brands such as Herbalife, Top Ramen, Fortune Oil and Indian Overseas Bank.

Young players like Saina Nehwal are truly an inspiration to our country!

We are proud of you Saina!