The wear and tear of a busy season – albeit a reasonably succesful one — might have finally caught up with Saina Nehwal, who was thrashed by Japanese Minatsu Mitani in Round 2 of the Denmark Super Series. With her court movement limp and her challenge lifeless — her attack rendered desperate at best — the Indian World No 1 suffered her second straight pre-quarterfinal loss against the same opponent, Mitani.
Nehwal, who went down 21-18, 21-13 on Thursday, an identical loss at the same stage from the Japan Open last month, is facing a major injury-management headache with the season not looking like it’ll provide any respite till Decemeber.
Coach Vimal Kumar later hinted at trouble in the adductor-abductor area, the hip-flex strain severely restricting her movement. There’s also a right Achilles heel flare up that will need to be monitored.
“Saina’s been struggling with her movements since the World Championship. Even in training when she’s pushing herself a little extra, she is struggling,” he said after the 39 minute toil ended in a hobbled exit from Odense Sports Park.
Nehwal first felt the pain at the World Championships, and played through it to reach the final where she lost to Carolina Marin. But clearly, India’s top-ranked player is at the crossroads as far as dealing with the problem is concerned.
“We’ll check with the doctors, and take a call on whether it needs urgent attention, or whether she can continue playing simultaneously with the treatment,” Vimal added.
Nehwal has appeared at just the two events since her silver medal winning feat at the Worlds, and had to dig deep in her opener against Thai Busanan Ongbumrungphan in a 69 minute encounter. But clearly she was running on fumes, and couldn’t summon her famed mental strength against the Japanese.
Mitani plays the typical Japanese game – retrieving endlessly and with a defense that can prolong rallies even beyond what the slow shuttles here led to. Nehwal would go for broke with her attack, but hardly moved to the net for a nuanced retort nor was she effective in picking everything the Japanese was throwing at her.
Mitani herself has a nice sprinkling of deception in between the times when her racquet goes magnetically chasing the shuttle, and when Nehwal wasn’t committing the errors, Mitani was earning winners making the Indian move.
“We need to find a time to fit in a break where she can recover, but the compulsions of the circuit are such that you can’t really take off,” Vimal said.
There’s ranking points to defend in Olympic qualification season, and the World Super Series Finals, the season-ender is not until the final month of the year. “I am concerned right now.”
Nehwal’s game is based entirely on her ability to move fast and pick shuttles early after which she can summon her modest arsenal of strokes. When her movement is restricted, and her fitness isn’t upto the mark – there’s also a confidence crisis that accompanies her maladies. She isn’t exactly one to settle comfortably into the solely returning, retrieving game — reacting to her opponents and likes taking control of rallies”‘
“I’ll check on the gravity of the trouble, and take doctor’s advice on this,” the coach said. Headed to Paris for the French Super Series, there’s much for Saina Nehwal and her team to mull over, and some tough calls to take.
Dog day afternoons in Odense
People of Odense have turned window dressing into a fine art. It’s not just the stores that aim at luring in the passer-by, even cosy homes here ensure that every window of their residence opening out to the world has tiny figurines and crystal, candlesticks and puppets and paper mache displayed prominently to add personalised touches to standard architecture that needs to conform to the town planners’ design schemes by and large.
So passing by a row of windows never curtained ostentatiously — also because they crave more sunlight, not less, if you see two tiny toy dogs, one peering out of the window and one looking into the house, it wouldn’t attract a second glance aside of being dubbed cute, were it not for Grethe Purreskov’s little gem of the old story of the two dogs.
Now, Grethe runs the Hans Christian Andersen walks in Odense and chirrups suitably when talking of the fairytale writer’s much-loved characters, who brought glee to kids. But she adopts the conspiratorial whisper — for effect — when narrating the tale of the two dogs at the window.
Odense has a great maritime history, and at one point in time half of its young men would be out at sea as captains of big ships. The wives, left to themselves for six-eight months, would then bring home puppies and dogs to keep them company and to protect their homes. “After some time the dog would be trained to be at the window all the time,” Grethe says with a wicked glint” “If he was looking out the window, it meant it was a signal to the paramour that the captain was home. If the dog was facing in and only its wagging tail seen to the outsider, it signalled the husband was away.”
The seafaring captain’s wives’ tale is old now, and lost its salacious tinge, but don’t be surprised if you still see two dog figurines facing in and out of windows of Odense homes, a hat tip to the city’s immensely exciting and racy past.
— shivani naik