Saina Nehwal is fit and ready to take on the world once again. Though she has been out of limelight ever since PV Sindhu won the silver medal at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, one can never count her out. Back to full fitness and hungry for a good fight, the ace Indian shuttler is ready to take on the world's best at the prestigious All England Championship, starting next week. After putting in the hard yards following a complete recovery from injury, Saina is aiming to regain her position in world badminton.
"My target is to be one of the best badminton players in the world and facing strong opposition from best players is the real enjoyment of playing badminton," Saina told PTI in an interview.
"I was runners-up in 2015 All England Championship but facing Carolina (Marin) was a very big task. She overpowered me and won the title. I am fine and well-trained now so I am ready to face my opponents," she added.
Left heart-broken after a knee problem scuttled her Rio Olympic plans, Saina showed tremendous mental fortitude to recover well and resume competitive badminton in November, despite going through a surgery in August.
The 26-year-old participated in three tournaments --China, Hong Kong and Macau -- last year before competing at the Premier Badminton League for Awadhe Warriors in January.
The Hyderabadi, who was still in the process of strengthening her knee, then notched up a stunning title win at the Malaysia Masters Grand Prix Gold to begin the season on a positive note.
Saina then decided to skip the Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold in Lucknow, saying she needed more time to be fully fit ahead of the Super Series events which start with the All England at Birmingham on March 7.
"I did not have enough time to train hard before the Malaysia Masters. But now I am fit, I have no injury issues. Practising hard under the watchful eyes of my coach for at least a fortnight prior to major tournaments is the most optimal time," said the 2015 World Championship silver medallist.
"I got enough time to train on full speed after Malaysia Open. I have been training under the guidance of Vimal sir, keeping the new trend of the game in mind.
"Mr Umendra Rana is also helping me as my sparring partner during training. He is from Sports Authority of India. Training is followed by stretching which also is very essential and Mr Arvind Nigam is a very sincere physio. He helps me a lot in the proper conditioning of my body after heavy training," she added.
The London Olympics bronze-medallist is set to lock horns with defending Champion Nozomi Okuhara of Japan in the opening round. Okuhara is nursing a shoulder injury and last played in November where she withdrew half-way through her first round encounter.
Asked about the draw, Saina said: "The draw is good. I guess it is not an issue who I am facing, it is all about giving your best out of the best learning. Let us see how the matches go."
The 2010 Commonwealth Games champion was appointed as a member of the International Olympic Committee's (IOC) Athletes' Commission in October last year.
Saina rued that she has not been able to attend the meetings due to her busy training schedule but hoped to give it some time in July.
"I'm an IOC AC member and recently they have nominated me for BWF AC as a liaison between players in BWF and IOC AC. I haven't attended most of the meetings of IOC AC but I may attend the meetings slated for July," she said.
(With inputs from PTI)