Late last year, Saina Nehwal rose to the pinnacle in women’s badminton by displacing Spain’s Carolina Marin to the second spot. But the Indian couldn’t keep her top position for long. She had a troubled ankle even as she commanded the top prize in the player auction for the Premier Badminton League held during January 2-17, 2016. But representing the Awadhe Warriors Lucknow, she chose to stay on the benches in the inaugural match against Mumbai Rockets. Her form took a beating and she couldn’t reach beyond semifinals in many tournaments. Just before the Australian Super-series in Sydney, Saina had slipped to no.8 in the world having been unable to win a single tournament in the 2016 season. But during the Australian Open, Saina zoomed back to her true self and riding on an aggressive stance, she conquered Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon in the quarterfinal and China’s Wang Yihan in the semifinal. She continued her aggressive game in the final against Sun Yu and clinched her first tournament win since March 2015, when she had won the India Open at New Delhi. In one of her latest revelation Saina has said that she drew her inspiration from India’s test cricket captain Virat Kohli. In Australian Open, the Indian badminton queen played aggressively just as Kohli had been doing in cricket and succeeding.
After winning the Australian Super-series Badminton Tournament, Saina has jumped two spots to be currently ranked as the world no.6. The victory also gave her a great morale-boost ahead of the Rio Olympic Games coming up in less than two months’ time. Her fans were frustrated with the run of her poor form over the last several months, during which Saina couldn’t even cross the semifinal hurdles in many tournament. At Sydney, however, Saina adopted an aggressive style in her play and ended as winner against China’s Sun Yu after dropping the first game in the title game. Saina wrote in her twitter account that she had emulated cricketer Virat Kohli’s approach because if aggression on the field helped Kohli, there was no reason why she couldn’t benefit from similar approach on badminton courts. Saina has said that henceforth, she would persist with the same style of play. At 27, Virat Kohli is now India’s full-time test captain and he is credited with taking India to no.1 side in test cricket. The Delhi batsman is ICC’s top T20 batsman and no.2 in ODIs. When playing, Kohli is intently expressive and occasionally abusive but off the field, he is surprisingly articulate.
At age 26, Saina is India’s most successful women’s badminton player ever. She is the Olympic Games bronze medalist besides winning the gold medal in 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games. She has several endorsements in her kitty and compares well with several mid-level cricketers in that respect. Saina Nehwal is one of India’s biggest medal hopes in the Rio Olympic Games and she is quite focused about her goal. All that she needs to do is to remain fit and injury-free. She cannot disregard that other top stars will also strive for the gold medal and the competition could be very tough. Regardless, the Indian ace is prepared to fight and with Kohli-like aggressiveness creeping in her game, she could be hard to beat.