Headline in one major newspaper read “Saina’s exit the lowest point for India at Rio 2016” post her shock loss to Ukrainian Marija Ulitina, losing in straight games at 18-21, 19-21. When a 100+ Indian contingent took for Rio with hopes galore, Saina Nehwal was one on whom most of the billions’ hope rested. The hope wasn’t just of a medal but of bettering her bronze medal performance in the 2012 edition in London.
But as it panned out, the nation tasted huge disappointment as the golden girl returned home empty handed; what was worse was a second round exit to a lowly ranked, mediocre Ukrainian player.
Though PV Sindhu washed away most of the disappointment with her top effort at the Olympics, forgetting what was a forgettable show for Saina didn’t come easy.
Soon after her exit, news broke of her nursing a knee injury while at Rio. Some people sympathized and understood it as the primary reason for the dismal show, others were left disappointed by her hiding the situation and eating up a place. But in all fairness, there wasn’t any other single’s player that could have taken her spot and did any better. An injured Saina would most definitely be better than many other 100% fit Indian women’s badminton player.
Just when PV Sindhu had written history and the country was celebrating the momentous achievement, Saina announced of her surgery on the troubled right knee. The ace shuttler underwent her surgery at the Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani Hospital & Medical Research Institute in Mumbai.
After staying away from the court for over 3 months, Saina made a return at the China Super Series Premier in Fuzhou on Wednesday, 16th November, 2016. But all wasn’t rosy as the Indian shuttler went down to Thailand’s Porntip Buranaprasertsuk, 16-21 21-19 14-21 in a match that lasted over an hour.
While Saina might have begun with a loss, the fact that she fought in the game and played three solid games on her return is a huge positive and boost for the country’s badminton hopes.
Saina even in the past had troubles with her knee and with the problem persisting, there were scares of her being off the court for a long gap or even to the extent of her not being in a position to get on it again.
But the fighter she is, she toiled her way onto the court in just three months and ended up producing a solid performance that augurs well for the future of badmintion.
Being an idol for many and one that changed the face of Indian badminton, Saina’s return is a big plus not just for her and the country but also millions who idolize her and work hard to follow her steps.
So while the result was not something one hoped for, the return has seriously prevailed and given more reasons for a smile.
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