Saina Nehwal, who gave India a superb start in the Uber Cup semifinal against Japan at New Delhi's Siri Fort on Friday, says she has surprised everybody with the form she has displayed this week.
Saina was at her best in the opening match against Minatsu Mitani. She won 21-12, 21-13. The Japanese world No. 12 played well in patches but was unable to match Saina's stroke play. Saina surged ahead in the first game with her brilliant net play and aggressive backhands. Saina even used her overhead shots with great precision, often catching her opponent on the wrong foot. (India vs Japan Uber Cup report)
Although Uber Cup is a team game, Saina is upbeat after winning touch matches with consummate ease. Beating Mitani was one of them. Having struggled in major tournaments this year, Saina was under pressure to lead the country as this was the first time the Uber and Thomas Cups were being played in India. (Related read: Japan beat China, India to enter Thomas Cup and Uber Cup finals)
"Yes, the pressure was immense. But I am happy the way I played. I had my rhythm going and I am in better form than I was in London," said the 2012 Olympics bronze medallist after beating Mitani.
India, of course, went down 3-2, blowing a 2-0 lead after Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponappa lost the third match, the crucial doubles that India banked on. Saina and PV Sindhu, who had earlier won a tense three-setter, teamed up for a rare international doubles appearance but could not match the Japanese duo in the deciding fifth match.
Saina is obviously looking at her singles career. Although India finished third for the first time in Uber Cup, Saina will aim to arrest her plummeting world ranking and she is quite upbeat.
"I can see the improvement in my game, have been watching my matches a lot. Nobody had any expectations from me. The media, my coach, my parents, myself... everyone had doubts. But I am beating big players with convincing margins, which is a big thing," said Saina on Friday.
"I can't say if I am peaking at the right time. A player can peak at anytime. Depends on how you're playing... And I am doing that well at the moment," she signed off.