London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal praised her coaching staff led by Pullela Gopichand for working on her training in the lead up to the ongoing Denmark Open Super Series Premier.
The former world No 1 knocked Olympic champion Carolina Marin out of the tournament last night in the opening round to avenge her Japan Open second round loss to the Spaniard.
Nehwal had begun training at the Gopichand academy after shifting base from Bangalore to Hyderabad, following the World Championship in August. She was training under Vimal Kumar for the last three years, which included her most difficult injury phase.
“The coaches worked really hard on me in the last three weeks. They told me that my movements were very heavy. Gopi sir found out at the World Championship that I was sort of falling down and I was not able to get up fast from the net and the players were catching me behind with fast tosses,” she said.
“He was scared that I had just come in and so he did not give me very tough training, they just focused that I get adapted to the training, so he was not pushing me very hard. All thanks to Mulyo (Handoyo), Gopi sir and Hariawan, three of them made a plan for me, made me believe that I had the game and I just need to work on my movement and sharpen my strokes, basically think smarter and not go all out.”
Okuhara defeat still rankles
A year ago, Nehwal had bowed out of the Rio Olympics after suffering from a knee problem and had to undergo a surgery. But she fought back to not only recover but also win the World Championship bronze medal in August.
She lost in the semi-finals to Okuhara, an opponent she has beaten six times in the past.
The 2015 World Championship silver medallist said, though, she was happy with the bronze, losing to Okuhara “pinched’ her as she wanted to win the title.
“Any kind of victory feels good, but I also wanted to win the tournament because I have beaten Okuhara so many times, so it pinched me but the way she was playing in the World Championship, the kind of retrievals she came up with was amazing,” the 27-year-old said.
“The World Championship taught me a lesson that I have to work even harder on my stamina. I felt I was kind of tight in my hip and legs and of course my shots were also not sharp. Looking at the way (Nozomi) Okuhara has improved, Carolina and Sindhu’s improvement, the way they were playing big rallies, I am just happy to come a little close but I have a lot of improvement to be done,” she added.
The focus for Nehwal now is to break back into the top-10.
“I have to play difficult players early because I am ranked 12 now,” Nehwal said. “A lot of players who are ranked below me are getting good draws and before the match I was thinking ‘Oh my God’ I am getting such tough draws. But I know I have to beat tough players to come back to top-10 again,” Nehwal said after a tense battle against Marin.
Asked if she has any targets for next year, Nehwal said: “I just want to think about one tournament at a time. I don’t trust my body nowadays, my body can do anything. I am just happy with the kind of training I did in this tournament,” she added.