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It won’t be easy to hold her recently-acquired number one position in the world rankings but ace Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal says she is confident of a long reign at the top and is prepared to put in the extra effort for it.
“It will be tough maintaining the number one ranking, but people should respect that I have been the first one to reach number one slot,” Saina told PTI in an interview.
“If everything falls well in line and if I train well, then I am sure I can maintain it for a long time but it is not going to be easy I have to work very very hard. I have to keep in mind everyday I am world number one and have to work as world number one. I will try my best to win as many titles for my country,” she said.
Asked who she perceives as a threat to her world number one status, Saina said Li Xuerui is the top contender because the Chinese has good chances to beat her for she has less number of tournaments.
“All are threat to me. Right now, I cannot comment on one person. Li Xuerui is the top contender because she has less number of tournaments compared to others, so she has the chance to go on top again,” she said.
Asked whether her former coach P Gopichand called her after becoming world number one, Saina said there has been not much of a conversation with him except during the tournaments.
“Whenever we go to the tournament, we speak there. Otherwise there is not so much of conversation as we do not have that much of time. We work on our training,” she said.
“Being my coach for so many years, he tells so many good things and wishes me best but sometimes when you go to a different place, differences do happen.
Asked what went wrong with Gopichand as her coach, Saina said their off-court planning was not fructifying on the court as she was losing to best players like China’s Li Xuerui.
“I cannot exactly say what happened but the training which I got was not up to the mark. We discussed on my game but whatever we applied on the court did not work out for me. My game required something different, something else,” she said.
Saina further said not every coach can read the game properly and may not know how to improve from one stage to another.
“Not every coach can read the game properly. Sometimes, the coach may not know how to improve from one stage to another. Somehow I got stuck at one place, not improving from that zone,” Saina said.
Saina credited her latest achievements to her new Bengaluru-based coach Vimal Kumar and lauded him for making her believe that she is world number one material.
“While working with Vimal sir, I came out with results. Otherwise I lost with very close margins to top players. This shows that improvement was happening, but I was still not confident that I will achieve world number one ranking. Vimal sir had belief in me and said if I keep on performing and winning, the ranking will take care of itself, and that’s what happened,” she said.
“Right now we are working on improving areas which I was weak at and I think, we are doing that very well and that’s why the results are coming,” she said.
Talking of other issues, Saina reflected on the controversy which erupted after she expressed her displeasure at being ignored for the Padma awards despite fulfilling the criteria.
“No, no why should I (regret)? It is okay. I felt at that time that there is something wrong happening, so I spoke about it. Why should I repent it?” she said.
Asked will she be vocal again for Padma award next year, Saina said she would leave it to the government to decide on it.
“Sometimes sportspersons speak emotionally. Next time I will leave it to them to decide. It’s done one time, it’s done, it’s finished. You don’t need to speak about it 100 times. Nevertheless, the government supports sportspersons a lot. That’s past now. I want to focus on future,” she said.