SAINA NE­HWAL, 22

BAD­MINTON, WOMEN’S SIN­GLES Dhin­dar, Haryana

India Today - - SPORTS -

SPORT­ING STYLE She jumps up high and in the next in­stant swoops low, shuf­fles to the left and runs to the right. All this in the blink of an eye, be­cause 22- year- old ace shut­tler Saina Ne­hwal is at war against not one but four play­ers. The op­po­si­tion com­prises her men­tor Pul­lela Gopic­hand, Indonesian coach Dwi Kris­ti­awan and fel­low play­ers Paru­palli Kashyap and Guru Sai Dutt. This game has been chalked out for her by Gopic­hand, a for­mer All Eng­land Bad­minton Cham­pi­onships win­ner who is train­ing Ne­hwal for her sec­ond Olympics. At her first Olympic ap­pear­ance in Bei­jing in 2008, Ne­hwal, then just 18, be­came the first In­dian woman to reach the bad­minton quar­ter­fi­nals. Now in 2012, with a Com­mon­wealth Games gold medal, four Su­per Se­ries wins and six Grand Prix ti­tles to

her name, Ne­hwal is at her peak and only get­ting bet­ter.

VAN­TAGE POINT The Chi­nese are con­sid­ered the su­per­pow­ers of bad­minton, with the three Wangs ( Wang Yi­han, Wang Xin and Wang Shix­ian) and Li Xuerui hold­ing the first four po­si­tions. But re­cently Ne­hwal breached the im­preg­nable Chi­nese wall by de­feat­ing World No. 4 Wang Shix­ian at the quar­ter- fi­nals of the In­done­sia Open in June and went on to win the fi­nals against World No. 3 Li Xuerui.

CHAL­LENGE AHEAD She reached her ca­reer high in 2010 when she was crowned World No. 2 but has now dropped three po­si­tions. She has also never de­feated reign­ing cham­pion Wang Yi­han, who will be in ac­tion at Lon­don.

OLYMPIC RUN- UP In April, Ne­hwal crashed out of the In­dia Open, los­ing against World No. 12 Bae Yeon Ju, but dis­played nerves of steel at the In­done­sia Open. If she main­tains her cur­rent form, she has a good shot at win­ning in Lon­don.

“I was sure of a vic­tory in my re­cent tour­na­ments. This helped me go against the odds and do well. I am sat­is­fied with my cur­rent form.”

AFP

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