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  1. #1
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    Default Interview with Indian Rising Star and Phil Open Champion Saina Nehwal

    Hi all.

    I recently wrote this article for Inquirer Badminton. It's an interview with Philippine Open Ladies Singles Champion Saina Nehwal (she beat world number four Xu Huaiwen in the quarterfinals!). Enjoy!

    By Vip Malixi
    co-author, "Advanced Badminton Techniques" with Butch Oreta, available at

    As I watched India's Saina Nehwal beat Malaysia's Julia Wong to win her first ladies singles title plus eight thousand plus dollars in prize money, I saw her flash a smile and it reminded me of someone--someone famous and beautiful. Aha! Rebecca Romijn--the gorgeous babe (Mystique) from the X-Men movies!

    Thus it was no wonder she was a fan favorite. Her good looks plus the fact that she beat world number four Xu Huaiwen in the quarterfinals led dozens of the Pinoy audience to flock to the 16-year-old girl from India. Graciously, Miss Nehwal smiled as Filipino fans took their cellphone camera pictures with her. She obviously didn't mind. This was all new to her. Just last year, she had lost in all the tournaments she entered. In a couple of them, she even had a big lead only to be cut down in the end by her more experienced opponents. She said, "I never won. So I was depressed. I (felt) very sad to be in the lead so (many times) and then still lose to them (my opponents). They have all the experience. They played many tournaments so they have much confidence."

    Rather than letting these setbacks break her though, she vowed to play better: "I really worked hard these last two months. I was in my home in Delhi and I really worked hard. And I thought this time: 'no more leading and losing--just win the game--that's it.'"

    The result was this first four-star tournament win. She said she'd use the confidence she gained here to succeed in her next bouts: the Indonesian Open, the Singapore Open, then the Malaysian Open, with her ultimate goal, to win a gold medal in the 2008 Olympics.

    Saina started playing when she was nine, encouraged by parents who were very much into badminton. Though she was never really interested in the game, she started winning tournaments left and right. That's when her parents said to her, "Why don't you play professionally?"

    At 13, she got into the national juniors program. Then at 15, she became a full member of the national team.

    At such a young age, I asked her what gave her the confidence to think she could reach world-class level?

    "Actually (when I started) I didn't know what is 'international level.'" She just observed what her teammates on the national squad did. "I said, 'Oh this team is very hard working, so they look very fit, I should do it too to (be able to compete with) them.'" So she persevered in her training and eventually, she got used to the style of international-class techniques: "I started getting used to the way they played." She also has a coach who won the All-England Championship to guide her, as well as a fitness coach. "There are many coaches behind me. They really work hard (to help me)." She also underwent different training regimens in China and Indonesia. "In China, I just went to see how the players play over there. I was there for over one week. And then in Indonesia, I was there for the Commonwealth Games. I was there for fifteen days and it was really helping me. The training was really good."

    In the Commonwealth games, while only 15 years old, she beat three world-class players during the tournament. "So (winning against them) was confidence building. (I realized) I could beat other players also."

    And with this latest win, the world's top ten ladies had better watch out. "I have much more confidence (now). I had beaten some pretty good world-class players so now it's more easy for me to beat (other) players."

    I asked her what advice she could give to Filipino ladies singles players.

    "I think, you know, here, (there are not too many) good players. There is not a good coach here. So I think they should go to different places. Like China. I know it takes a lot of money to go and play there. But you need to go there to improve. You can't just be here. You can't just stay in the Philippines and think of winning world championships. I think they need to go somewhere. To know how (others) play, how different players (play), how the Chinese play, how the Indonesians play. I saw...your (ladies) singles players...I don't find anyone playing so well." She said our ladies singles players don't move fast enough or hit hard. They need to work on their power and speed.

    Harsh, but true.

    Well if this 16-year-old can deal with it, hopefully we'll find our own young Filipina who will devote the time, energy, and persistence, to also win in the international stage.

    Meanwhile, this girl with a gorgeous face and a ferocious attacking clear has arrived: clearly a new force in world badminton singles.

  2. #2
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    Nov 2002
    Delaware, USA
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    Dang! She is from my hometown

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