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Millennium Post

A shuttler we can shout loud for

Saina Nehwal is proving to be India’s best bet for the Olympics in any individual category, apart from Mary K in boxing. This is especially after Leander Paes and Mahesh Bhupathi are proving to be such spoilsport ‘adolescents’, who have thought it right to put their bloated egos before their country. Nehwal just won the two titles Thailand Open and Jakarta Open in as many weeks, which is a major feat on any account and especially because in either, she faced a battery of Chinese challengers, a country whose shuttlers have dominated world badminton for more than two decades now.  

Last Sunday, the Hyderabadi ace put a show of strength as she extracted victory from the throes of defeat to claim her maiden Indonesian Super Series Premier title in Jakarta. Nehwal triumphed 13-21, 22-20, 21-19 over China’s Li Xuerui. She fought a hard, one-hour five-minute match, which was swinging either way and in the end saved two match points to script an incredible victory. Nehwal seems to be at her best in Jakarta where she earlier won the Super Series title in 2009 and 2010 before the tournament was upgraded to the Premier level last year. With this win, the 22-year-old Nehwal ended the 30-match winning streak of Xuerui, who is widely considered the most successful player on the circuit this year. The gritty, no-nonsense Nehwal has always made it clear that she is here to chase the highest honours in the game and not just become a pin-up of a few thousand Indian fans, which her semi-namesake Sania Mirza has been more than content to be in tennis, her recent French Open doubles title doing little to change that image.

Chief national coach P Gopichand described Nehwal’s victory as stunning and expressed satisfaction that Nehwal was coming to her peak form as the Olympics was approaching. This is crucial. Nehwal’s best bet in the coming months is the Olympics and there could be no bigger honour if this world no 5 could come back home with a gold from the world’s most famous sporting arena. The Jakarta and Thailand victories should act as perfect springboard for that ambition.
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