PBL 2018: Saina's ankle injury a concern before hectic season?
Is Saina Nehwal’s latest injury a reason to worry ahead of a crucial 2018? Is this a signal to yet another low point for the ace shuttler, who had to undergo a knee surgery after limping out of the Rio Olympics in August 2016.
Her first appearance at the third edition of Premier Badminton League against reigning Commonwealth Games gold medallist Michelle Li in Delhi suggested some answers. Saina was not only sluggish in her movements at the Siri Fort courts but her strokes weren’t up to the mark. She later admitted that she wasn’t able to play her ‘A-level’ game.
“I took time to react to her attacks and could find the rhythm only in the second and third game. My movements were sluggish. My game wasn’t upto the mark. It still requires a lot of speed,” said the World No. 10 after staging a comeback to prevail over 21st ranked Li 6-15, 15-13, 15-13 as Awadhe Warriors beat North Eastern Warriors 4-3 in New Delhi.
The London Olympic bronze medallist had pulled out of her high-voltage PBL opener against P.V. Sindhu in Guwahati citing an inflammation in her right ankle. The shuttler, though, on Saturday said it wasn’t serious and was an “overused tendon injury” which she encountered in October.
“I wasn’t in match practice for last four-five weeks due to the injury. I played this tie only with 2-3 days of practice. So, it’s not magic that you come and jump here and there. When you're out of match practice, a comeback is tough. I wanted one win to get back my confidence. I am happy to pull off the tie; I was trying to retrieve everything though I wasn’t playing my top level game. I need to be careful on my movements and work on it,” said Saina with a tinge of wary against her next match likely to be against World no. 1 Tai Tzu Ying, who is the marquee player of Ahmedabad Smash Masters.
She also mentioned that inflammation takes time to recover and rest won’t do any good to heal the injury. “I felt a bit of pain when I was practicing this morning. It will go with more strengthening and playing. What happens is when you get pain due to overuse injuries, you just need to keep playing with that and strengthen it, it’s something you can’t even rest and heal," Saina told this correspondent.
“There comes a time when muscles can't take the load and its goes into the joint. Then it starts hurting. It was a bit harsh in November so my doctor was like ‘it will hurt as you are not giving any time to rest’. So the three-four weeks of rest was neccesary,” Saina explained.
Saina expected a tough outing against Michelle Li
On Li’s performance, Saina said she wasn’t surprised to see the kind of deceptive strokes the reigning Commonwealth Games champion was unleashing.
“She (Li) is a sharp player. I knew that she will be tough to play. Today infact all her strokes were on the lines, which made things difficult for me to make those big lunges. When you lunge, the whole thing depends on your ankle. So that restriction was there today but one-two matches, it will open up,” she said.
The 27-yer-old also added that break after the India Open Superseries in end of Januray will allow her focus on her training and fitness with national chief coach Pullela Gopichand, to whom she has recently moved after the World Championships.
Late in 2015, Saina had to endure the most challenging period of her career when she was down with Achilles Tendonitis, a chronic inflammation of the soft tissue at the back of the heel, for six months. On her comeback, she went to win the Australian Open in June before limping out from the Rio Olympics with an intra-articular knee injury (inside the joint), which was later operated in Mumbai in August 2016.
Despite the doctors telling her that she would take six months to return, she cameback to the court in six weeks only to win the Malaysian Masters and then the World Championship bronze. “With fighting spirit I pulled out of the PBL opener, but sometimes you can’t push your body when it’s not in shape,” she said.
For now, “fitness and getting back stamina” is the most important thing for Saina, performance comes later.