Saina Nehwal: More off-court antics than on-court tactics

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How India’s badminton star huffed and puffed and decided to blow off the Indian Press

India being a land of hero worship, we, the shuttle crazy fans of Saina Nehwal virtually carried her on our shoulders and marched around in glee when she was crowned the Number one player in the world. Not to be outdone, Aussie Indians were all the more ecstatic because she was arriving in Sydney to take part in the elite Australian Open Shuttle Championship to be held at Homebush Olympic stadium in May. She had lifted the Cup in 2014 and was attempting to win back to back.

Although she reached the quarter finals with effortless ease, she was defeated – and rather effortlessly too — by Chinese player Shixian Wong, ranked fifth in the world. The score of the match, which lasted 41 minutes, was 21-15, 21-13.

Despite the defeat on court, the Press was still excited for a chance to meet the badminton queen face to face. But alas, like the hopeful back-to-back win, this too was not meant to be. While the press of Indian origin gathered with pen, pad and massive cameras to quiz ‘the lady wonder’ about her training and strategies on court, they never sensed that this upset was a portent of a bigger blow coming at them – the fact that Saina would just not turn up for the conference.

After minutes and minutes of waiting, the press was greeted by the ‘Media in charge’ who mentioned that Saina – who had lost the finals and the Cup reportedly because of a stomach ailment — had left the premises soon after the match was over, despite knowing that there was a media contingent waiting to meet her. She had apparently told him that she had nothing to say.

Was it the disappointment of the loss of the match, food poisoning, loss of prize money, or the possibility of being unseated from her number one position that made her react this way? The usually amiable, well-spoken and highly articulate Saina had in defeat become a shrinking Mimosa Pudica. She should have taken a leaf out of the book of tennis great Roger Federer, a master in handling the press. Personally, I didn’t lose anything by not meeting Saina. Other than my respect for her.

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