Badminton champion Saina Nehwal recently won the $700,000 China Open Super Series, beating Akane Yamaguchi of Japan in the summit clash. Speaking with Rohit E David , Olympic bronze medallist Nehwal discussed the thrills of beating the Chinese on their home turf, how her controversial change of coach worked for her — and her desire to now work with PM Modi:
You’ve won the Australian Super Series and the Syed Modi International Grand Prix Gold this year — how important is this win for you now?
I am happy — i won this tournament in China, the powerhouse of badminton. In the history of this chapter of the tournament, none of the non-Chinese players were able to stand on the winning side, so it is definitely a record.
You’ve clashed with the Chinese earlier — have you now cracked the code to beating them?
Well, i feel more hard work and dedication are required to break this code. I’ll need to put in more effort. Nonetheless, it is encouraging for me to beat the Chinese and in their own territory. Frankly speaking, i badly needed a win. I am thankful to the Almighty that i got it — and that too in China.
You switched to a new coach Vimal Kumar earlier — what role did he play in this win?
He helped me a lot to rectify routine faults of my game. He did a lot of work and i accepted his advice. Yes, i do feel that changing the coach has worked out for me.
Do you feel happy having left your earlier coach P Gopichand?
I have been coached by Gopichand for the past decade. He is the national coach and Vimal, a former national coach. Gopi and i both decided that my progress was not on a high although i had won the Australian Open defeating Martina in June who became the world champion in August 2014. So, to remove the jinx, i teamed up with Vimal for training at Bangalore.
Many times, this type of change has been done by other players for various types of games. So, it’s the same. Vimal gave me time to take on this challenge and we both did our best to break the ice.
I can’t comment if in the future, i’ll team up with Gopi or not.
Malaysian champ Lee Chong Wei recently failed a doping test — your thoughts?
It’s very unfortunate that a player like Lee was caught in this act. He is a wonderful player but i guess this is his bad luck.
What’s your next big sporting challenge?
I have set my eyes on the Hong Kong and Super Series final in Dubai. I want to lift both these titles and add them to my kitty.
We’re also seeing sportspersons getting involved in social initiatives — like Sachin Tendulkar, would you also like to adopt a village?
I will be associated with the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan programme initiated by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. I think adopting a village will be a big thing for a sportsperson — but i do want to work with Modi.