Saina Most Complete Woman Shuttler: PadukonePARIS: At 20, Saina Nehwal's shoulders bear the expectations and hopes of millions of sports fans among India's massive population. Saina has shot to number two in the international badminton rankings and holds genuine prospects
PARIS: At 20, Saina Nehwal's shoulders bear the expectations and hopes of millions of sports fans among India's massive population.
Saina has shot to number two in the international badminton rankings and holds genuine prospects of lifting world championship gold come Sunday evening.
"She is the most complete woman shuttler in the world now," says Prakash Padukone, Indian all-time great and All England champion in 1980.
Victories in successive Super Series events have propelled Saina up the rankings where she looms a large threat to traditional Chinese dominance.
But she is not running ahead of herself.
She told the Badminton World Federation's website: "Yes, things could not have been better than this. But again, what matters is once you enter the court is how well you play on the given day for nothing you achieved, however wonderful it might have been, will help you any way."
A bye in the first round means a second round match on Wednesday against Taiwan's Hsiao Huan Chen, world-ranked 65, with Chinese in waiting later.
On form, Saina should do well all week, but she cautioned: "I reiterate -- world rankings don't matter. Personally, I would love to be the world champion and still be World No. 2 rather than being World No. 1 and not be the champion."
Saina is the most famous trainee from the famed Pullela Gopichand Academy in Hyderabad.
Gopichand, All England champion in 2001 and renowned coach, says: "There is very little scope for improvement in Saina's game. She is a vastly improved player now say from what she was even eight months ago."
On Sunday, golfer Arjun Atwal became the first Indian to win on the PGA Tour. Now sports fans round the country are hoping Saina can pull off a similarly rare feat.