After a disappointing 2013 in which she failed to win a single title, suffered injuries and saw her world ranking taking a dip, star shuttler Saina Nehwal has decided to cut down on the number of tournaments next year to remain injury-free.
"If I look back now I think I played a lot. Next year, I will make sure that I skip a few tournaments and focus on my fitness and perform my best in a tournament," Saina told reporters at the prize distribution of the All India Ladies and Junior Girls Amateur Golf Championship here today.
The London Olympics bronze medallist, who is currently ranked No.8 after starting the year as the world No.3 in women's singles, said it will take her at least a month to reach her peak fitnesss level. "It will take time. I actually had put on a lot of weight also in between. So that really affected my movement. Now I am coming back to my good (level). I am feeling quite fit," said the 23-year-old Hyderabadi shuttler.
"It might take one more month to come back to the best of my fitness but I will make sure that I keep maintaining it during tournaments," she said.
Saina said her performance during years, when there were major events like the Olympics or Asian Games, had been good in the recent past which was an encouraging sign as in 2014 there were the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland followed by the Asiad in Incheon, South Korea.
"2010 and 2012 were good. So it is good that those years when there was the Olympic Games, Asian Games or Commonwealth Games, were good. It is a good sign. This year wasn't that good. Next year, I will try by working on my fitness, playing less tournaments and focusing more on training. I think I missed that this year. I played too many tournaments. My fitness was down and I could feel that my stamina was low. In the long matches, my breathing was difficult which wasn't right," she added.
According to Saina, national coach Pulella Gopichand was also concerned about her slump in fitness and both were keen to see the mistakes were not repeated next year.
"Gopi sir is also worried that there are fitness issues. We are working on that and to see that we don't repeat the same mistakes again. There is Asian Games and Commonwealth Games this year so it is important that I stay fit and be ready for those two Games," she said adding that she wants to win the gold medal at the Asian Games in September.
Saina is confident she will come back stronger next year and will be a better player after a disappointing season. "2013 was all about my toe fracture, my injury. I didn't know when the time just went off. I didn't get time to get back to my recovery (process). During World Championship, we had quite a few weeks' time to recover and get back. "But that was not enough because the whole of April, May, June was totally (spent) on the fracture thing. IBL (Indian Badminton League) was good. I don't know how I played so well in that tournament. It just happened," said Saina.
"Then again in Denmark, I fell and had my ankle injury. There were too many injuries that happened this year because I wasn't so fit and I wasn't at my best like how I was in 2012. So, I would like to make myself that fit again, come back stronger on the court and 2014 will obviously see a better Saina," she said optimistically. "Next year, the target will be to win as many tournaments because I have been playing with them (top rivals) for a lot of years and I know their game. But it is just that my movements have become slower and I have to work on those. 2014 will be much better because I will now be focusing on less tournaments and working more on my fitness," she explained.
In the new year, Saina has set her eyes first on the Malaysia Open Super Series event to be held in Kuala Lumpur from January 14-19, and then the Indian Grand Prix at Lucknow the following week.
After drawing a blank this year, Saina is keen to win the Super Series titles next year. "Ranking will be an important part, but apart from that winning Super Series (events) is very important and I am looking forward to winning Super Series (titles) next year," she said. The top Indian player was not too concerned over the significant slump in her rankings.
"I was 8 when I started playing and then I came to 2. It hardly matters. It is just when you win matches and when you get back to your position. So it is all about winning and fitness." Saina, who pulled out of the ongoing senior nationals in Delhi due to cold and fever, agreed with Olympic gold medallist Abhinav Bindra that players should be given an option to decide whether they want to participate in the nationals.
"I think option should be there for the nationals, because you are playing almost 16 tournaments in a year. We play that because we have to get certificate for Olympics or Asian Games or Commonwealth Games.
"Nowadays, the competition has become so much that you need to be fit or you can't even cross first second round. The fitness is very important. I am actually missing the Korea Open (Jan 7-12) only because I haven't got the time to train and haven't got the time to recover and come back to my best. "From Denmark Open (in October), I am just seeing myself struggling to get out of that thing. I need proper time to recover and get back stronger on the court," she remarked.