World Badminton Championships 2017: Why Saina Nehwal was back on court just 16 hours after her previous encounter
No matter how well a player is prepared, it all boils down to that one day, one match or one moment. Proper rest and recovery are as important as proper training ahead of big matches. Even a Lionel Messi or Roger Federer or Lin Dan may not perform to their best without adequate recovery from a strenuous training or a tough game. In that context, scheduling of matches in tournaments plays an important role in the outcome. We have often seen players complaining of cramped scheduling leading to their early exits.
In June 2017, the 2014-Commonwealth Games gold medallist shuttler Parupalli Kashyap had urged the world badminton to reconsider the scheduling of qualifying matches after he had to play two consecutive matches at the Australian Open in a span of two hours.
The ongoing BWF World Championship 2017, that has reached its business end in Glasgow, too saw players talking about the tight arrangements. Former world no. 1 Saina Nehwal, who eventually settled for a bronze, blamed the hectic scheduling for her exit from the women’s singles semi-finals on Saturday. The 2015 silver medallist went down to Japanese seventh seed Nozomi Okuhara 21-12, 17-21, 10-21 after fighting for one hour and 14 minutes at the Emirates Arena.
Nehwal pointed out that she didn't get adequate time to recover from her quarter-finals.
“I thought we would play in the second session but scheduling was kept like that. (It is) surprising because we do not have enough time to recover and take the necessary steps because I just could not. I just slept,” the 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist said after her loss.
Nehwal came into Saturday’s semi-final after playing a marathon match against Kirsty Gilmour, who had stretched the Indian to the limit before Saina prevailed over the local player in an hour and 14 minutes. The Haryana-born shuttler played in the evening session as did her opponent Okuhara who needed 1 hour 33 minutes to dispatch two-time champion Carolina Marin 21-18, 14-21, 21-15.
And both the players were back on the court within 16 hours.
What makes the scheduling questionable was Nehwal’s compatriot and the other semi-finalist, PV Sindhu and Chen Yufei, had around 30-hour gap between their respective quarter-finals and semi-final clash. Sindhu and Yufei had played their last-eight matches in the morning session on Friday.
In men’s singles, Rio Olympic gold medallist and fifth seed Chen Long too had a tight scheduling as after playing his quarterfinal against compatriot Tian Houwei on Friday, he was back on the court for his semifinal against world no. 3 Dane Viktor Axelsen, the 2016 Olympics bronze medallist, after 15-16 hours gap.
The reason behind tight scheduling
Certainly, Nehwal’s blazing form during the World Championships had caught the attention of all; this was one of her best shows since returning from a career-threatening injury and surgery early this year. The charm of old was back in Nehwal’s game which sent some of the top names like Sung Ji Hyun and Kirsty Gilmour packing. The way she returned to her best, TV viewership must have sky-rocketed and this could have been one of the primary reasons that her semifinal was scheduled in the morning session.
With a time difference of +4.30 hours between Scotland and India, the organisers might have scheduled her match in a way that they can extract the most out of it, in terms of viewership, as the fans hadn't watched her play at such a level for some time now. Moreover, Nehwal's global fan-following played a part in this as well.
Despite her exit, Nehwal definitely has won the hearts of her home and away fans who backed her till the end. Her performance of such grit and determination was truly inspirational and she will always remain a champion.