Lucknow: Parupalli Kashyap agrees that shutter Saina Nehwal is skating on thin ice as far as her Tokyo Olympics ambition is concerned, but he believes the 2012 London Games bronze medallist still has it in her to make the cut by doing well in the remaining qualifying tournaments.
Saina has to move into the top 16 in the race to Tokyo rankings by April 28 to qualify for her fourth consecutive Olympics. She is currently ranked 22nd.
“Saina has to qualify. She is in kind of a tight situation,” husband and coach Parupalli Kashyap, currently playing for the Mumbai Rockets in the Premier Badminton League (PBL), was quoted as saying in an interview.
“But I am hopeful that she will get through. There are 8-9 tournaments (till the cut-off date). The upcoming three-week period is important for her. Hopefully she can stay healthy and a couple of (good) results will do it.”
Saina has endured a lean patch, failing to reach the semi-finals even once in the 17 tournaments she has played since winning her last title - the Indonesia Masters in January 2019.
Kashyap said the reason for her poor form is due to health and fitness issues. “Her body has taken a toll the last year. You’ve been seeing the unfit Saina for so many months,” he said.
“She was playing well in 2018 but after that it’s been a lot of pain for her. Then she had pancreatitis in addition to continuous acute gastroenteritis. She was even hospitalised when I played the semis in Korea Open (September 2019),” said the former world No. 6.
“I don’t know whether it was the side effects, but when I spoke to the orthopedic he said that everything might be linked as she also had pain in joints, knees, Achilles (heel), and shin constantly for six months.
“The problem is when we plan training blocks, you have some injury and it goes for a toss. One or two weeks go in rest and then you play the tournament (without enough training) because you have to,” said Kashyap.
“The standard (in women’s singles) is such that if you are one percent fitter, you are in a different league. If you are one percent less fit, then suddenly any ordinary player has a chance against you.”
However, Kashyap is confident that with right amount of training, Saina, a former World No. 1, will be able to bounce back.
“She is a player who has won medal at the Olympics. She wants to reach a stage where she’ll start fighting for titles again,” he says.
“I feel she is a step or two behind and just has to train for a period of 4-6 weeks. That’s what she is trying now. These are crucial times but hopefully she can stay healthy. A couple of good performances and everything changes. Then you can see a different side of Saina.”