Enduring a difficult period following her career-threatening injury, London Olympics bronze medalist Saina Nehwal quelled doubts on her winning titles as she turned the tide by winning gold in the Malaysia Masters on Sunday.
The World No.10 defeated Thai Pornpawee Chochuwong 22-20, 22-20 in the thrilling summit clash to win the title that she earlier gave away to Chinese Wang Xin in 2011 Malaysia Masters, settling for silver.
In an exclusive interview to thestatesman.com, Saina described her first win after undergoing critical surgery as a "hard-fought title".
“Title in a sport is the ultimate aim of each sportsperson. It was a very hard fought title where a young girl from Thailand put me on test. God helped me and I won,” Saina said.
“I thank my coaches Vimal sir and Umendra Rana, physio Arvind for the hard work they did with my rehab and training to come to this level,” she added.
Suffering heartbreak at the Rio Olympics in 2016, the once undisputed champion exited early from the tournament after constant pain in her knee. She had to go under the knife, which was a big blow to her winning career but within three months of the surgery, the top-notch badminton player returned to court.
Plagued with injuries, questions of Saina regaining her form persisted as she suffered both "mentally and physically" during that time.
“Yes, I was bothered when everyone was talking about my form. But, time is the biggest healer. Now, I am recovering. I thank everyone for their support during that critical period,” Saina said.
Her coach Vimal Kumar, satisfied with her win after seven months' gap, wants Saina to ‘calm down’ and not be obsessed with winning and regaining everything instantly. Agreeing with her coach, Saina is being "extra cautious" to remain fit.
“I agree with my coach (Vimal Kumar) to stop being obsessed with winning titles. This is the beginning and I will be extra cautious to maintain fitness and will give my best efforts to get full out of training,” the 26-year-old badminton player said.
With less than two months away for the grand All England Open to be held on March 7-12, Saina is gearing up to be a strong contender in the prestigious tournament.
“I am doing everything to be fit before the major tournament starts. It is still a beginning and a lot of training is required to win super series titles,” Saina said.
When asked about her future plans, she said her main focus is “to remain fit and continue training, and reap well after fine efforts”.