Hectic schedule, fitness issues affected Saina Nehwal: Gopichand
Pullela Gopichand says while Saina Nehwal can bounce back next year - with Asian Games and Commonwealth Games scheduled in 2014, the national coach feels plans will have to be made and that it is time to go back to the drawing board.
National Coach Pullela Gopichand feels the "hectic" international and domestic schedule has taken a toll on Saina Nehwal's fitness and form this season but he exuded confidence that "solid training" will make the Indian ace battle-ready for next year.
The 23-year-old Saina had a poor run this season as she failed to win a single title. Besides a couple of semifinal finishes at All England and Malaysia Open, the Indian has had nothing to show this year.
"I think it's very obvious that she has not played very well. It has been a tiring year. These results came because fitness levels came down. It has been a hectic season," Gopichand told reporters.
"The results till September have been very good. After that, there has been slight slack in form. I don't think it is a cause of concern. We will get two-three weeks good break and we will have some time to train. I am sure by next season, she should be alright," he said.
Gopichand feels Saina lost a lot of time because of her injury but said she can find her best form with a sound training schedule.
"I think it (relatively poor form) happens with all players. She had been in top-five (in world rankings) consistently for four to five years. Of course, people will read her. She also knows many of the players' games in and out. It's not necessarily only the reading part. It has also to do with a bit with injury. More importantly, the time which was lost due to injury," he said.
"There is nothing (injury) now. But the time we have lost, she has not been really able to train for that good four to five weeks of solid training. Without that base, you cannot get it at the highest level. You want to protect your ranking, you don't want to slip too far, so you tend to play too many and that hurts you in the end," he added.
Observing that some of the very important tournaments like Asian Games and Commonwealth Games are scheduled to be held next year, Gopichand said they need to plan for the big events effectively.
"The big matches are next year. Asian Games, Commonwealth are the big tournaments. Coming back after the Olympics this year was going to be a tough year anyway for Saina. We will need to go back to the drawing board, plan the entire schedule correctly," he said.
The 40-year-old said Saina is still young and she can play for at least another four-five years and win some big titles.
"She has it in her to continue playing for at least four to five years. I do expect her (to be) fit, (in her) best frame of mind. She is capable of winning the best tournaments," he said.
Saina, who had been in top-five in world rankings for several years, slipped to sixth place following a string of defeats at international tournaments in recent times.
Troubled by injuries and inconsistent form, Saina failed to defend her titles at Indonesia, Denmark, Switzerland and Thailand and also suffered an early exit from many tournaments in the last couple of months.
The Olympic bronze medallist on Thursday crashed out of the Hong Kong Open, which brings an end to the 12-leg Superseries circuit of the season. The Indian will now try her luck in the season-ending BWF Superseries Final which will held in Kuala Lumpur next month.