Saina Nehwal, who has been struggling to replicate her superb run of 2010 when she won three Super Series women's singles crowns as well as the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games, seems fractionally slower on her feet this year, feels former badminton ace Prakash Padukone.
"It appears she is slightly slower this year as compared to last year. I feel she is half a step slow, which means she reaches the shuttle fractionally late and is able to retrieve the bird but not attack it consistently like she did last year," Prakash said on the sidelines of a media conference to announce the details of the Tata Open India International Challenge tournament on Monday.
Conceding that the form of the Hyderabad-based Saina, who became the first Indian woman to enter the quarterfinals of the Olympic Games badminton in 2008 at Beijing, was a bit of a concern, the former All-England and world champion said there was enough time for her to improve her speed on the court before the London Olympics.
"It's a bit of a concern but the Olympics are some time away and I'm sure she will figure it out. Unlike the other Indian players in singles, she is certain to qualify for the Games," said Prakash.
According to Prakash, the top eight players in the world were more or less equally strong and a slight dip in their respective forms could affect their results.
"There is very little difference among the top 7-8 players," he pointed out.
Another ex-national champion and international Vimal Kumar felt that 21-year-old Saina, who was the first Indian girl to win the world juniors, would benefit from having a talk with Prakash.
"She has (Pullela) Gopichand to guide her, but tips from someone else like Prakash would also be beneficial. One of her biggest assets is her mental strength," said Kumar.