Saina Nehwal

Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal is all set to win a medal in the Rio Olympics but which one is the question. Let’s hope for the gold, as she’s in a good form right now and has just won the Australian Open Super Series title.

Last month, she belittled former world champions Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand and Wang Yihan from China before overpowering China’s Sun Yu in the final in Sydney. It was Saina’s second Australian Open victory, having clinched the title in 2014 as well. She had claimed a bronze at the 2012 London Olympics.

Rio will be her third Olympic stint. She is better equipped to win a medal in Rio in August than the Indian shuttler was when she won bronze four years back, former All England champion Prakash Padukone told Reuters. “Saina has a lot more variety now,” former men’s world number one Padukone said in an interview. “I think she plays a lot more at the net now. Earlier her game was more or less predictable. She had a few strokes, she used to keep playing them and there were not many variations. Now, she has developed a lot more strokes, specially at the net. She is much more confident and that has made a big difference.”

In 2012, Saina became the first Indian badminton player to win an Olympics medal. Ahead of the Rio Games, she, in an exclusive interview with Firstpost, spoke about her aggression, her training schedule, India’s emergence as a badminton power and spending days away from home.

China has long been the dominant force in the sport, sweeping all five titles at London four years ago, but their shuttlers no longer top the world rankings, heading to Rio. While Malaysian Lee Chong Wei tops the men’s singles rankings, Carolina Marin of Spain leads the women’s list with Nehwal in the sixth place.

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