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Everyone has to retire one day, I have not set any deadline: Saina

Quite clearly, Saina Nehwal is in the twilight of her career. She has won only three of the nine matches she has played this year. Her world ranking has plummeted to 55 in the world. And she last won a title in January 2019.

 Badminton player Saina Nehwal speaks during a press conference(PTI)
Badminton player Saina Nehwal speaks during a press conference(PTI)

It is not as if the former world No.1 doesn’t want to perform but her 33-year-old body isn’t responding the way it used to a decade back. Battered and bruised due to injuries she sustained during her long career, Saina has had to get over major groin and ankle injuries, health issues like pancreatitis and acute gastroenteritis, and chronic pain in joints, heels and shin. Now, the knee has been bothering the Olympic bronze medallist in the last couple of years.

“When I play for a longer time, the knee starts hurting and causes inflammation. I am not able to bend my knee. It is like arthritis. It’s not a good sign for a player who plays at the highest level. There has to be some solution and I am trying to figure that out,” said Saina, who is working with famous orthopaedic surgeon Dr. Dinshaw Pardiwala to solve the issue.

“I have got opinions which have helped. Injections have helped to get better cushioning in the cartilage. This degeneration happens to players who are playing for 20 odd years. Playing is easy. To maintain the body, to not have any niggles is what is important. Hopefully, with proper guidance I hope to recover and come back.”

However, the two-time World Championship medallist added that she can only resume proper training if her knees heal, without which it will be difficult to compete at the highest level.

“I am trying my level best to come back but if the inflammation doesn’t reduce, it will take more time to recover and I don’t want to play half-heartedly as the results won’t come. If you are trying to compete against An Se Young, Tai Tzu Ying, Akane Yamaguchi, it won’t happen with just one hour of training,” said Saina at the launch of the Harvest Gold Global Race 2023.

“The level has improved so much. It can only happen if the knee doesn’t show inflammation. Rest all depends on practice. As a player you want to play for India, give your best, like I did for so many years. I don’t want to give up yet.”

As of now, Saina has not registered to play any tournament and will decide later when she will make a return to the BWF World Tour. Asked about her retirement, she quipped: “Everyone has to retire one day. Everyone stops when the body doesn’t support. I have not set any deadline. As a sports person, it is my duty to try because I love the game. My target is not to play Asian Games or Olympics because I have achieved a lot in those tournaments. Of course, it (colour of medals) could have been better. But I want to try. I shouldn’t have any regret.”

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