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End of the road for former World No. 1 Saina Nehwal?

World No. 23 Saina Nehwal has decided to skip the national selection trials slated to be held in New Delhi from April 15 to 20. (Pic credit: BAI).
World No. 23 Saina Nehwal has decided to skip the national selection trials slated to be held in New Delhi from April 15 to 20. (Pic credit: BAI).
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Suhas Nayse

It was a disappointing day for millions of die-hard fans of Saina Nehwal. The ace is more or less certain not to continue with competitive badminton in the future.

Former world No. 1 Saina Nehwal has decided to skip the national selection trials being held for upcoming multi-sport events.

The Badminton Association of India (BAI) will conduct selection trials at the Indira Gandhi Indoor Stadium in New Delhi from April 15 to 20.

Nehwal, who has now slipped to world No. 23, has informed BAI officials about her unwillingness to participate in the six-day selection trials.

The skipping of trials means the 32-year-old Nehwal will not be part of this year’s big-ticket events like the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and the Hangzhou Asian Games.

The Hisar-born shuttler is a two-time CWG gold medalist and 2012 London Olympics bronze medalist. However, her chances of defending her title at the Commonwealth Games are as good as over as she has decided to skip the national selection trials.

A top BAI official said,

“Saina has written to BAI informing her decision not to play in the trials, which will be the only tournament to pick players for CWG, Asiad, Thomas and Uber Cup.”

The CWG squad will consist of 10 members with an equal number of men and women. The Asian Games and Thomas & Uber Cup contingents will have 20 members each, including 10 men and 10 women.

BAI has made it clear that players inside the top 15 in the BWF rankings will be picked directly. The rest will be chosen from the trials, which will see the participation of shuttlers ranked between 16 and 50 in the latest world rankings, released on March 29.

The national governing body of sports will also be finalizing probables for the senior core group for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games during the trials.

Saina Nehwal lost to unseeded Malvika Bansod in the India Open second round in January 2022. (Pic credit: BAI)
Saina Nehwal lost to unseeded Malvika Bansod in the India Open second round in January 2022. (Pic credit: BAI)

Age is fast catching up with Saina, says former national coach

A former national coach has admitted that age is fast catching up with the former World No. 1. On the condition of anonymity, the former coach said Saina’s era has now ended in Indian badminton history.

He was quoted as saying,

“It is no secret that Saina is not getting any younger now. She is already 32 and grappling with a series of injuries and has struggled to maintain her form in the last couple of years. She is perhaps the best female Indian shuttler the country has ever produced, but now the time has come to give youngsters a chance. I think it was the right decision on her part not to participate in the selection trials.”

The former national coach was of the opinion that even if she would have participated in the trials, the chances of getting selected for the team were bleak.

Saina has not crossed the second-round hurdle in the last six tournaments

It has been a frustrating last couple of years for Nehwal, who did not qualify for the Tokyo Olympics as several tournaments were canceled due to the pandemic. Owing to a lack of full fitness, Saina has not been able to cross the second-round in the last six tournaments she competed in.

In 2022, she played the Indian Open, German Open, All England Open and Swiss Open, losing in the second round in all four.

Her last tournament was the Swiss Open a couple of weeks ago where she was beaten by Kisona Selvaduray of Malaysia, who is ranked 56 in the world.

Facing defeats from lower-ranked players has become quite common these days for the shuttler.

At the Indian Open in New Delhi in January, Nehwal’s return to the circuit ended in the second round when she lost to the fast-rising Nagpur shuttler Malvika Bansod.

She has only reached the semi-finals of an international tournament once since 2019, when she made it to the last-four stage at the Orleans Masters in 2021.


Edited by Puranjay Dixit
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