No need for Saina to panic: Popathttps://indianexpress.com/article/news-archive/print/no-need-for-saina-to-panic-popat/

No need for Saina to panic: Popat

The 21-year-old Hyderabadi went down 21-13,23-21 to Chinese Xuerui Li,now a familiar nemesis,on Friday at Birmingham.

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 4’s latest exit,Popat says Nehwal needn’t 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. “It’s only March,she needs to peak in July-August. This is just a preparatory phase,and even if she doesn’t do well in these tournaments,there’s 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 she’s testing the courts,setting her goals as per her schedule. It won’t do any good to put pressure on her to win tournaments. She’s 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 it’s anybody’s 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 that’ll go in her favour.”

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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 couldn’t 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 Nehwal’s ratings. “True,she’d have gained a lot of confidence had she beaten her,and perhaps won another round and played the final. But frankly,I don’t think she should take on any pressure whatsoever about beating — or not — the Chinese at this moment or think too much about it. She’s beaten them before. Just take this into your stride,it is OK,” Popat says.

The former champ’s advice to Nehwal is straight,minus frills. “Just hang in there. Plan properly,and stick to your plays. Don’t 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 shouldn’t 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.