Hyderabad: Saina Nehwal has had a mixed year so far. Coming into the business end of the year, the London Olympic bronze medallist had battled injuries for best part of the year. However, she won her first Australian Open after coming from an injury layoff. But her painful second round exit in the Rio Olympics remained a bitter pill to swallow. Later, it was revealed that
she had suffered a knee injury in Olympics. She underwent a surgery on her right knee in Mumbai. Though she played in two international tournaments – Macau Open and Hong Kong Open Super Series – after recovery, she is yet to reach her best. However, given the shorter format of the game, Awadhe Warriors’ coach Anup Sridhar feels that a player like Saina cannot be counted out.
“I believe she is actually quite fit right now. She has played Macau Open and Hong Kong series after her injury lay off. She has almost three weeks of rest before the start of PBL season. So there is enough recovery time. In terms of fitness there are two kinds. The fitness to be able and compete and the other is to last throughout the match. Since the scoring is 11 points, I don’t see the endurance part of fitness is an issue for any player. It is a good thing for us and for Saina. As long as she is fit physically to play, I think she will be very tough player to defeat,” he adds.
Sridhar is also aware of the fact that the competition will be intense. “The women’s singles category is very tough in this season with the best four players in the world competing. Saina will come up against the best in the world. She has proved in the past also that she can come on top and she will do it this time as well. Somebody like her who is so experienced and has been World No.1, you can never count someone like that out. She is still young and has another five years of badminton left in her,” he says with a confidence.
Talking about overall team composition, he says, “I am very happy with the team’s composition. We have also managed to add big star like Kidambi Srikanth to our team. We also have some familiar faces in Bodin Isara who did
extremely well in the last season for us. We expect good results from him again in the mixed doubles. And we also have Olympic silver medallist Wei Shem Goh in men’s doubles. We hope that that will also be a big boost for our team.”
Sridhar also feels that if their side plays to full potential they can lift the championship. “The new format makes it very difficult to predict the winner. With just 11 points to finish the game, is something players are not used to. We have done a good job of putting together a great team. But it will be depend on how the players cope with new format. You hardly have any time to recover.
I have a few ideas in mind on what I want to work on regarding the format. I have couple of things which I think will help our players. For us it is one match at a time and we will see how the players are finding it in the tour.” On Trump matches he feels that using it carefully is very essential.
“Out of all the teams, we really know the importance of a trump match. In the first tie of the last season, we had ma very tough time. We lost our Trump match and ended our score as -1. So it is very essential match for us. We will be very careful and judicious on how to use it. It can completely change the tide.”
Sridhar also feels that all the teams in the fray have good chances of winning the title. “The obvious tough opponent would be Chennai because they are quite lucky in the auctions to get Sindhu for lesser price. The format of the auctions was such that she came last in the list. I think they have a very strong team. But honestly, in a situation like this, you might be surprised with the result. It is such a short match. It is more unpredictable and anyone can emerge winners. On paper, our team, Delhi and Chennai look strong teams.
Bengaluru is also very balanced. Hyderabad has Marin. Kashyap can be very dangerous in second singles for Chennai. So it is going to be very interesting,” he concludes.