Panic is the only false step that Saina Nehwal could take,believes former badminton Olympian Aparna Popat,a day after the Indian ace bowed out of the All England in the quarterfinals. Unwilling to allow any manner of anxiety to creep into her analysis of the Indian World No 4s latest exit,Popat says Nehwal neednt be unduly worried even if the results seem to be stacking up against her.
The 21-year-old Hyderabadi went down 21-13,23-21 to Chinese Xuerui Li,now a familiar nemesis,on Friday at Birmingham. Its only March,she needs to peak in July-August. This is just a preparatory phase,and even if she doesnt do well in these tournaments,theres no way we are going to write her off, the former India No 1 says in strong defense of her compatriot.
Having been to two Olympics herself,Popat is a firm advocate of Nehwal setting her own pace of preparation and says a multitude of reasons could have led to the latest reverse. This is probably when shes testing the courts,setting her goals as per her schedule. It wont do any good to put pressure on her to win tournaments. Shes lost to a strong Chinese,not a lesser player, she adds.
On faltering against this particular Chinese player – yet another time in a testy second set,Popat reasoned,If you are in the 20-all scenario in the second set,it boils down to two rallies,and its anybodys game. At such times,several factors like the side of court you playing on can come into play, says the multiple national champion,currently also a selector. Once she hits peak form,these are the precise points thatll go in her favour.
Nehwal,ever the slow-starter was in the arrears soon in her last-8 clash,before she saved a clutch of match-points in the second at 17-20 and even wrestled a set point of her own at 21-20,but couldnt make it count to push the matter into a decider after conceding three rallies on a trot.
Undoubtedly,a good lead-up would have helped Nehwals ratings. True,shed have gained a lot of confidence had she beaten her,and perhaps won another round and played the final. But frankly,I dont think she should take on any pressure whatsoever about beating or not the Chinese at this moment or think too much about it. Shes beaten them before. Just take this into your stride,it is OK, Popat says.
The former champs advice to Nehwal is straight,minus frills. Just hang in there. Plan properly,and stick to your plays. Dont get flustered,or let those two-three points make you change your entire plan. This setback,should not, she stresses,come in her way of her motivation for Olympics. She shouldnt lose sight of that,because I know she can win a medal there, says Popat.
Nehwal next defends her Swiss Open title this coming week,and seeded third,starts against Japanese Sayaka Sato.