Fit and raring to go, ace India shuttler Saina Nehwal said that the onus would be on her to boost the team’s confidence and get the momentum going by winning her first singles match in the upcoming Li-Ning BWF Thomas and Uber Cup Finals in New Delhi.
There will be three singles and two doubles during the tournament and while Saina will be playing the first singles, P V Sindhu will be competing in the second rubber of Uber Cup.
“First singles makes a lot of difference. It will be crucial for the players ahead. I have to be very focused. If I could perform well in my opening singles match, it will boost the confidence of others also,” Saina said at the launch of the prestigious event on Wednesday.
“Hope we win my and Sindhu’s singles, as well as Jwala (Gutta) and Ashwini (Ponnappa) in doubles. I hope we as a team perform well.
“Momentum is very important. Starting has to be good. If first singles does not go well then there is a lot of pressure on the shuttler playing the second singles,” she added.
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The London Olympics bronze medallist expressed confidence of the team making the semifinals of May 18-25 event.
“Everyone is playing well. Indian players’ performances were good in ABC (Asian Badminton Championship). I did not play in ABC as I wanted to recover (from my injuries) and train hard for Uber Cup. I have been working hard for last one month and practising hard for last 4-5 days here. I will give my 100 per cent. I can see everyone working hard.
“For Uber Cup, we have a good chance of making the semifinals,” said Saina.
In Uber Cup, India have been clubbed with Thailand, Canada and Hong Kong and Saina felt the Southeast Asian side will be the toughest.
“Thailand will be tough because all of them are very good. Their all three singles are very strong. Even their doubles is strong. But recently Jwala and Ashwini had beaten them at ABC so they would be having the upper hand at the moment. But singles is going to be difficult.
“Ratchanok (Intanon) is a good, strong player. Porntip (Buranaprasertsuk) is also very strong competitor. Nichaon Jindapon might play the third singles. But then it’s a team competition and pressure will on on them as well,” said Saina.
“Whichever team will be able to handle pressure better will win. So, lets see how it goes,” said the 24-year-old.
Saina said India is confident of pulling it off against both Hong and Canada.
“Against Hong Kong and Canada we are better and we can pull out the matches but against Thailand we have to be very careful and alert,” she said.
The Hyderabad-based shuttler insisted that India have a better chance this time as they have a strong team.
“This time we have more confidence. We did not have a strong team earlier. We never had more than one good player in singles. But right now, the whole team looks very, very strong,” she insisted.
Saina will be captaining the Indian team during the competition and said the team was gelling well. “We hardly play together as a unit. One has to concentrate on winning her own match. My work is to win my singles match. As far as the others matches are concerned, it will be interesting for me also to watch how they are playing. But I will definitely be tensed.”
Stating that she was fit, Saina said she hoped to do well.
“I am fit and I hope to find my form soon. From 2006, I have been playing first singles in Uber Cup. I have done really well. I have always come out with good results and hopefully this time also get good results.”
Whether playing at home would be an advantage, Saina said “it is both ways”.
“Sometimes you are playing extremely well and everything falls in place, sometimes you just lose your focus. For me it is both ways. I won the Commonwealth Games here but I could not win India Open here, while I won it in Lucknow,” she said.
On how much players have benefited from Indian Badminton League, Saina said, “IBL is something that has changed the Indian badminton. Players have got benefited. Badminton is so much more popular now.”