World number five and top-seed Saina Nehwal won her second title of the year when she beat Thailand’s world number 11 Ratchanok Inthanon 19-21 21-15 21-10 in Bangkok on Sunday.
In doing so, she posted her third win in four meetings against the second-seeded Thai, the match lasting 65 minutes. It was not an easy final as she took some time to settle down before coming into her own, playing rallies, and foxing her opponent through deft net play.
“It was a big tournament, very tough, and I played with most of the top players. The final was very intense because Inthanon is world No 11 and one of the good youngsters who is playing well against all the tough players,” the elated 22-year-old told DNA from Bangkok.
Nehwal, whose first title in the year came at the Swiss Open in March, said it was a competitive tournament despite the absence of leading Chinese players. “There were three to four Chinese players, but they were not their top shuttlers. The competition is very severe at every level nowadays as everyone is playing well.”
Nehwal admitted she was under pressure in the final: “It (pressure) happens once you start playing with someone who is a local player and has a big crowd support. There was a little bit of problem at the start. She started off really well.”
The win should be a morale booster ahead of the Olympics. Nehwal, however, isn’t thinking much about the quadrennial event.
“I can’t say now what I can do at the Olympics. There is still a lot of time. I have to train very hard for that. Olympics is not an easy tournament, the competition is extremely high. People expect a great deal from me. I just expect hard work from myself,” she said.
Now, she’s wiser and far more experienced than the Nehwal of Beijing 2008. Back then, she was just 18 and exited in the quarters.
“From then, till now, I have won many tournaments and beaten quite a few top players. You never know if you can win the Olympics, be it as a junior or as an experienced player. Last time, when I was 18, I beat world No 5 (Wang Chen) in the pre-quarterfinals. Even experienced players lose at times. It’s how you play on that particular day.”
Asked if she could treat the Olympics as any other Super Series as advised by former great Prakash Padukone, Nehwal said, “It is sir’s point of view. He has played so much, he also knows about it. I’ve always approached every tournament in the same way. When the competition is very high in big tournaments, we are under pressure. There is tension. I think I should relax myself more in bigger tournaments. Maybe, he is right, I should treat the Olympics like any other tournament.”
Her immediate goal, though, is to do well in the Djarum Indonesia Open Super Series Premium starting Tuesday. “That is a bigger tournament with tougher competition as the top Chinese players will be there. I have to be alert and aggressive. It is only after the first round will I know how I am doing there.”