India's hopes of fetching five badminton medals at the Commonwealth Games suffered a massive jolt on Friday as ace shuttler and defending champion Saina Nehwal pulled out of the Glasgow event after failing to recover from leg blisters sustained during the Australian Open Super Series triumph last month.
"It is an extremely difficult decision but an important one," a heartbroken Saina told PTI ahead of the event which starts on July 23.
"I had suffered a groin injury during the first round in Australia and then there were those blisters on my leg but I still won the title. After I came back I had two and a half weeks but I took one week to recover, so hardly got a week to train. So, I decided to pull out. It's heartbreaking for me as well," she said.
The Olympic bronze medallist, who is believed to be suffering from a knee injury as well, said she had to take the decision of withdrawing from the Glasgow Games in order to get fit for the rest of the season which includes important tournaments like the World Championship and the Asian Games.
"I did start practicing and I hoped that I could still go and play, but then I didn't want to exert myself too much. I don't want to risk an injury again. I have to be fit for the rest of the season. There are two more important and equally big tournaments coming up next -- the World Championship and Asian Games. So I had to take a call," said Saina. ('Was Never Far from Winning a Title')
"It is important to go into such big tournaments knowing you are 100 per cent and especially when I am playing well and have won an event. It will enhance my chances of winning a medal for India," she added.
Currently world number seven, Saina had defeated Wong Mew Choo of Malaysia in a thrilling final during the 2010 Commonwealth Games to bag a gold.
"I know I am a favourite at Commonwealth Games. I am the defending champion but I still have to play and give my 100 percent to win the title. In sports, it is difficult," the 24-year-old insisted.
India had won four medals in the previous edition of the Games at New Delhi. Besides Saina's gold in women's singles, the pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa won the yellow metal in women's doubles, Parupalli Kashyap earned a bronze in men's singles, while the hosts settled for silver in the team event.
Saina's withdrawal is a big blow to India as the shuttlers were hoping to win at least five medals this time around, with P V Sindhu in women's singles and K Srikanth in men's singles also having bright chances of a podium finish.