Saina shines in Sydney

The Star Australian Badminton Open 2015


By Neeru Saluja

If India was not a cricket crazy nation, Saina Nehwal would be the country’s most famous sportsperson. On 29 March 2015, when Indians were watching the World Cup finals but silently mourning about India’s absence, our very own Saina won her maiden women’s singles title at the  India Open  BWF Super Series in Thailand and became World No 1 in badminton.

At that moment, I felt so proud of being an Indian and a woman. India’s loss in cricket looked small comparable to Saina’s big achievement. Though I grew up watching cricket, the sport I loved to play was badminton. Cricket brings fame, but other sports are played like a game. To those who don’t know, Saina Nehwal has more than 5.7 million followers on social media while Virat Kohli has only 5.36 million followers. She is not only India’s most sought after sports personality, but has made a mark worldwide.

As Saina Nehwal arrived in Sydney to compete in the Australian Badminton Open, The Indian Down Under talked to her in an exclusive interview. The sun was shining and our Opera House looked divine when I interviewed her against it as the backdrop, one famous Indian icon sitting in front of another famous Aussie landmark, but what stood out in the interview was the grit and determination of Saina.

Saina, you have made us proud by becoming the World number one in badminton. How do you feel at this stage?

It is a great feeling. Coming from India especially where no one has achieved this position, it feels really good. Being a player, you have a dream to achieve high and become number one. When you actually have it, it’s something very special and unbelievable. It gives you a sense of confidence. You feel as if you are at the top of the world! But you need to be careful as it adds a lot of pressure and expectations.

You need to be careful as if what kind of training you do to maintain your position as many sportspersons want to be at the top. Being an Indian, we all love sports and get a bit emotional. Whenever you lose, your fans feel disappointed, so you have to try your best to beat the players. The competition is very difficult once you go higher the top 15 are giving each other a really tough fight.

No other non-Chinese has reached the level you have reached. How would you differentiate their exposure to the game compared to us?

The exposure is improving a lot. Indian government is helping lots of its sports persons. There are a few organisations like Olympic Gold Quest that help us at Olympics and you don’t need to worry about your expenditure. They try to support you in every way which makes things easier.

In a country which is dominated by cricket, was it difficult to make your way and gain recognition?

It is not easy as cricket is a very big sport in India. Cricket will always be the biggest sport of India as it has been in the limelight for so many years. Other sports can consistently perform and then only can they be known worldwide, but it’s tough to make a mark. Other sports are trying to perform well and last year we got six medals in the last Olympics. The interest is growing and I’m sure we will get lots of medals in other sports in the coming years.

If Saina was not playing badminton, what would she do?

I would have been a doctor, because my father is a scientist. In India as you know they give a lot of importance to studies. I was good in sports and I started winning at a young age. Somehow my interest shifted towards sports. But my father always wanted me to become a doctor. In 2012, I got an honorary degree as a doctor from Aligarh university so that’s very kind of them. But finally, I’m very happy to be world number one in badminton.

Describe a typical day in the life of Saina Nehwal.

My typical day will be training on the badminton courts! I play on court in the morning and training in the evening, which is off court. It depends on the schedule of days but sometimes I do weight training, springs, running, agility and shadow. Off court there are different kinds of trainings planned every day and on court I’ll do drills and stroke practice. Altogether, I practice on court for 7-8 hours.

What will be your message to upcoming sportswomen?

If Sania Mirza can be world number one in tennis and I can be world number one in badminton, then we can reach the top. Girls have the capability to perform. We need to come out and be more confident. Parents need to support their daughters as sons are already playing sports. Being a woman, I must say we are no less than boys. My message would therefore be for both girls and the parents. Believe in yourself and the world will be yours.

Do not miss this opportunity and see Saina Nehwal play here at  Sydney’s Olympic Park, visit: Australian Badminton Open website:

Short URL: