SAINA NEHWAL, 22
BADMINTON, WOMEN’S SINGLES Dhindar, Haryana
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.”