Now I can only think of beating Yulianti next time: Saina

By Avishek Roy, IANS,

New Delhi : The pain of being turned back from the podium could be excruciating. No one knows it better than Saina Nehwal.

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She might still be hogging the limelight for her stupendous performance of being the first Indian shuttler to enter the Olympic quarter-finals, but she cannot forget that the door was slammed on her when she was at the doorstep of a medal.

Saina feels she has an unfinished job and that makes her much more determined to win a medal at the next Olympics in London.

Saina says she made the cardinal mistake of thinking of semi-final when she led 11-3 in the decider, forgetting that she had still to close out her quarterfinal match against Indonesian Maria Kristin Yulianti. The match was certainly hers for the taking, but that’s where the script went horribly wrong for the 18-year-old Hyderabadi.

All of a sudden, her feet would not move and she conceded points in a reel. Panic gripped her the moment she realised the entire country must be watching her in the hope that she was only a step or two away from a medal. Everything was over in a flash. She could not believe that she had lost the match and was too upset to even react. Her first thought was if only she could only play the match all over again.

“I did not know what hit me. For few moments, I was in a trance,” Saina told IANS.

“The court was very slow and I was making too many errors. She was picking my shots from any angle and corner. I got impatient. I wanted to rush through the match. My mind was in a state of flux. I was thinking of the semi-final. The game slipped so quickly from my hands, I could not even hear what Gopi sir was telling me. I was blank. I should have heard him out. I could not believe when I lost the match. I was so disappointed. If only I could replay the match,” Saina says.

“No point worrying too much about the loss, but the only way I could set the record straight is by beating her the next time I play Yulianti.

“I am just waiting to play her next time. I will beat her,” Saina says.

Saina has grown up dreaming of nothing but an Olympic medal. And she did enough to come close to getting one. Like a good sport, she has taken the defeat in her stride.

“Now I know that even if I am down 3-11 in any match, I can comeback. That’s the lesson the Beijing defeat has taught me.”

“It was my career-best performance. Winning the Philipinnes Open, my first international tournament was the biggest, but the Beijing quarter-final has surpassed it.” she says.

“I know the people will expect me to win a medal in London 2012 and I will be better prepared for that. But, before that I would concentrate on Commonwealth Games 2010.”

Saina’s rise to the top has been swift. She has not looked back since her breakthrough win in the Philippines Open. Her progress has been steady and she has proved she belongs there.

“Yes, everything has happened so fast in my career. I have worked hard for it. But I do not want to be satisfied with what I have achieved, though it has come at a young age. I just want to keep winning.”

Her family though is living a dream, Saina says.

“My parents are not able to believe all this. My playing in Olympics, entering the quarterfinals and returning with such accolades, it is a dream for them. They are happy and they are prepared to back me in whatever I do.”

Saina’s biggest career win also came at the Olympics. She knocked out World No 6. Chen Wang of Hong Kong in the prequarters.

“I had played her twice before and lost both the times. But this time I was confident of putting it across her. Perhaps, I was inspired by the occasion. I could retrieve all her shots and that’s when I realised that it was my day. I was also pumped up after Abhinav Bindra won the first individual gold medal for India. It is the kind of achievement that inspires you.”

“The ambience at the Olympics was also a motivating factor. Meeting athletes from different countries was a great experience. They are so friendly and so focussed on the game. Everybody wanted to win and that instill confidence in you. I did not feel the pressure and that also helped me to perform well.”

She might have lost the semifinal but her achievement in her first Olympics shows that she is a born fighter and the whole nation has only praises for her.

“Everyone was watching me with high hopes and that makes you feel good. I am having a hectic time now. I am meeting so many people. I am meeting the Prime Minister Tuesday. It feels so good when your effort is appreciated. I met the Sports Minister and the Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister. They all had encouraging words for me.”