After career high in London, Saina looks to scale more peaks
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Obstinate and single-minded, Saina Nehwal most certainly is. But she's not exactly known to charge at a muleta as if it's a bullfight, when chasing her career goals. Her next target post the Olympics medal has been carefully recalibrated by coach Pullela Gopichand — no zealous matador himself, rather one preaching a steady build-up of momentum, with the red cape to be waved only when it comes to biggies like the All England and the World Championships next year.
Returning from her break post the London bronze medal and a flurry of felicitations, Nehwal has been instructed to return to the routine of hard training and hard competition, without burdening her with ambitious targets like gunning for the World No 1.
The 22-year-old Hyderabadi is World No 4 currently, and rather than reading that as three rungs to climb to World No 1 — always a steep proposition — Gopi insists the Top Four ranking helps ensure Nehwal gets favourable draws. "The way I see it, we should worry about World No 1 when we get there. I believe if she does well in tournaments, she will get there eventually, it can't be the driving ambition for her," he says. Nehwal kicked off her return from the two-month break at the Denmark Open, the first (of four) Premier Super Series tournaments since the Olympics.
"She's playing many tournaments now, and the chief priority is to keep her fitness up. Winning every tournament is always the target as she'll compete in 12-15 events over the next year. But we will focus specially on the All England and Worlds now," he added of her journey that starts at Odense, the city with an old-world charm but a new spring for Nehwal.
Nehwal is also recovering from a knee niggle, and Gopi stresses that his ward has now made peace with the fact that the number of 'no injury' phases are very few for any player. Nehwal has never lacked the hunger to do well, and Gopi maintains that the medal changes little to nothing in her motivation levels which are always high.