Saina Nehwal's unexpected and dismal loss in the semi-final of the Premier Badminton League (PBL) on Friday led to the chairman of the six-team tournament, Akhilesh Das Gupta, facing some stinging questions here on Saturday.
Das Gupta who is also the president of the Badminton Association of India (BAI), was asked if India's top shuttler was forced to take to the court in spite of not being fit. However, the sports administrator assured everyone that the Hyderabadi was not pressurised by anyone to play.
"Saina was not fit which is why she did not play in Mumbai and Hyderabad. It is up to the player to decide whether he or she is fit to play or not. I assure you neither the BAI nor any franchise forced Saina, or as a matter of fact any other player, to play," Das Gupta said.
Saina did not play the opening clash of the tournament on January 2 in Mumbai, citing injury. She played the two home matches for her team – the Awadhe Warriors – in Lucknow but did not take the court in both her team's ties in Hyderabad.
She finally returned to play the semi-final against Han Li of the Mumbai Rockets but her performance was way below par. She did not move well and easily lost to the Chinese player who is ranked well below her.
"Saina herself thought she was fit and went to the court. But many a times a player realises that he or she is not fit enough only when the match starts, which was probably the case with Saina too," Das Gupta concluded.
However it has been reliably learnt from a close source of Saina that the World No.2 has been down with fever lately which resulted in her poor performance on Friday.