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Olympics: Confident Saina cruises past Tan

Sports

Olympics: Confident Saina cruises past Tan

Did Saina Nehwal have a flight to catch? The manner in which the Hyderabadi hurricane brushed aside her rival from Belgium, Lianne Tan 21-4 in just nine minutes in the first game seemed to suggest so. The Group E match saw Tan put up a fight in the second

By Admin 31st Jul, 2012 11:13 am

Did Saina Nehwal have a flight to catch? The manner in which the Hyderabadi hurricane brushed aside her rival from Belgium, Lianne Tan 21-4 in just nine minutes in the first game seemed to suggest so. The Group E match saw Tan put up a fight in the second game to go down 14-21 and hand over Saina a ticket to the pre-quarter final at the London Olympics.

Saina loves cars. In fact, one of her long-cherished desires is to own an Audi, which her scared-of-Hyderabadi-traffic father Dr Harvir Singh has not allowed her to. The manner in which the world number 5 kept her foot firmly on the pedal through the match, was clear evidence that Saina was determined to be in the driver’s seat.

Unlike her trademark housefly swatter shots with which Saina pummels opposition into submission, the shuttler was more grace in her match against Tan. It was the first time the two were meeting on court and Saina didn’t make the first-time Olympian feel at home, proceeding to demolish her clinically. So much so that at the end of the first game, coach Pullela Gopi Chand hardly had any words of advice for his ward.

One of Saina’s long-cherished desires is to own an Audi, which her scared-of-Hyderabadi-traffic father Dr Harvir Singh has not allowed her to. AP/PTI
Watching the one-sided encounter, I was reminded of 2005, when Saina, 16 years old, won the junior singles, doubles and sub-junior singles titles with ease. Those who saw those matches likened her rivals to “helpless lambs ready for slaughter, going through the motions quietly”. At that time, Saina was asked if she had a tough time motivating herself against such meek opposition. “No, the one-sided matches keep inspiring me. They just mean I am getting better and better,” she had said.

There were several positives from the match for Saina fans. Her body language exuded confidence with none of the nerves exhibited in her first match on Sunday against Sabrina Jaquet of Switzerland. Her backhand was immaculate and her court craft wonderful. The shuttle was her ally throughout as the Wembley Arena turned into a slaughter house for Tan. To give credit to the Belgian, she played better badminton in the second game, perhaps also an indication that Saina’s concentration and focus was slackening after having it very easy in the opener.

The business end of the Olympics will start now. Saina could face Yao Jie of Netherlands in the last 16 and will have to be prepared for the kind of strokes the Dutch player will employ.

Throughout the match, the Indian diaspora was out in full strength to cheer Saina. One of them, a person in a red T-shirt, continued to chant her name even while she was getting ready to serve and in the midst of her game. One only wishes such badminton illiterate fans would not mistake an Olympic arena for a picnic in the park.

By TS Sudhir
TS Sudhir is the author of ‘Saina Nehwal : An Inspirational Biography’

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