Posted On Tuesday, April 23, 2013 at 09:22:50 AM
New Delhi: There is an unusual chill in Delhi’s air even though the summer officially has descended upon the nation’s capital a while back. This unusual behaviour, however, is not restricted to just meteorological changes. Many roads leading in and out of central Delhi are blocked by barricades.
The police here are not known for their compassion but they tried extra hard yesterday to prove that point. There is anger in the streets and unrest in the psyche of those trying to lead normal lives here.
They say sport has the power of healing all wounds because it is constantly protected from society’s misfortunes but yesterday, albeit in a fleeting moment, both the sport and the sportsperson transcended those boundaries to reveal amore vulnerable side.
On a day when she should be speaking about the Yonex India Open Super Series, which begins today, Saina Nehwal devoted some of her time in discussing her utter disappointment and fear with law and order situation in the city.
The spate of rape cases and the inability of the police to provide safety to women in the capital has now even scared someone as well travelled as Saina. “I am very sad and upset with what is happening in Delhi.
After what I am hearing (of the rapes), it is really very scaring. I will think twice (about walking alone in Delhi). This can happen to me as well. It is very unfortunate,” she said. This was a side of Saina that till now had not been to visible to the outside world.
We all knew her as the fighter and the one with an undying spirit. However, that fear we saw in Saina was not limited to what was happening in Delhi. Things have changed for her ever since she won bronze at the Olympics.
Where she would once always be the player trying to break into the big league she has now become an active member. In the Indian Open, she is the undisputed top seed. The tournament this year is devoid of any top Chinese players and if the stars align perfectly this could be the year that she finally clinches a Super Series title at home.
Yet a little bit of doubt still lingers in ever words she utters. There are no top players to fight with. Instead, the tables have turned. The younger crop is now aiming their guns on her. She not only has to face the pressure of playing in front of a home crowd but also the threat of losing to a younger and fitter player.
She could face her compatriot PV Sindhu in the quarter-finals of the tournament after which she has the possibility of facing either Indonesian wonderkid Intanon Ratchanok, who completely destroyed her in the semifinals of the All England a while back or China’s Jiang Yanjiao, a player to whom she has lost five times and to this day could never beat.
“My first round opponent, the Indonesian (Belaetrix Manuputi) will be very tough. The Chinese (Jiang Yanjiao) or the Japanese girls in the subsequent rounds are also pretty good.
As far as Intanon is concerned, she played very well in the last two matches I faced her. I will have to watch her videos carefully before taking her on,” Saina explained.
Of the entire possible match-ups the one against Sindhu would be the most anticipated; the older champ taking on the emerging star. “I think it will be an interesting. I am a little nervous being a top player but I will give my best.
Sindhu has been playing well and consistently beating top players, including Olympic champion Li Xuerui and former World No.1 Shixian Wang. So I will have to bring my A game against her,” Saina said.
Even coach Pullela Gopichand threw caution into the wind when talking about Saina’s chances this time around. “We have to give her time. She is just recuperating from a knee injury. In the five weeks she got before this event she was rested for two weeks and she trained for three.
This tournament will be a test on her fitness and against younger opponents she will have to push a bit harder.” Those are the hazards of reaching the top. The fall from that plinth becomes longer and more painful.
Her luck in this tournament has not been too great either. In the inaugural India Open, she lost in the first round and in the following year she went down in the second. It seems the pressure in India is of a different kind.
Beating the top players seems easier when you are defending yourself from weaker opponents with nothing to lose. In the larger schemes of things, this tournament seems trivial to the rage that has encompassed this city but sometimes it’s the simplest things that can help us move on. An Indian winning a super series title at home could be a good thing to start with.
A spate of withdrawals
Not a single match has been played at the Indian Open series and already three players have withdrawn from the annual event.
It was learnt that the number two seed, Sony Dwi Kuncoro of Indonesia and the eighth seed Sasaki Sho are the two players from the men’s draw and unseeded Fanetri Lindaweni of Indonesia from the women’s event are the three players to have sent their withdrawal letters.
The reason for the withdrawals is unknown but a BWF official said that this could be happening because the BWF pushed the cut-off date for the World Championship qualification forward from May 2 to April 25 and that’s why many players will not bother playing in India as the result here will not help them.
The date is set by the BWF as the world ranking date to determine those eligible to enter the 2013 World Championship starting on August 3 in Guangzhou, China.
The official said that more withdrawals maybe expected and also that there will be no replacements of those players and their first round opponents will get byes into the next round.
All about Indian open
• This is the third India Super Series. BAI was supposed to host this tournament from 2011 to 2013 but it has now been given a four-year extension till 2017.
• The total purse is $200,000
• As many as 220 players from 18 countries participate in the tournament
• Venue for the last three years has been the courts at the Siri Fort Complex, the same place where the badminton event for the 2010 Commonwealth Games was held
• The tournament will run from April 23 to 28
• Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia is the top seed in men’s singles. He won the title in 2011 and was runner-up last year. This year, for the first time Saina Nehwal will be the top seed in women’s singles. No Indian player has ever won a title here