Saina Nehwal has been the face of Indian badminton for some time. That she has assumed a global reputation of being a formidable opponent to have on the opposite end of the court is also a recognition of her meteoric rise in the sport. Despite being in with a chance to earn India's first Olympic medal in the sport, ever, the 22-year-old has hardly shown any signs of nerves.
Nehwal was expected to do well in the London Games. When, on Thursday, she beat fifth seed Tine Baun to become the first Indian woman to make it to the semi-final of the Olympics, it was not her achievement that was the first to shine through. It was the manner in which she dis-mantled her Danish opponent (21-15 22-20) that had fans and critics alike, raving about her. She celebrated her win. It, however was a celebration which hinted that all has not been achieved yet and that the medal matches are still to come.
Focus has never been too much of an issue for Saina coming into the Olympics. She had her rough phases but national coach Pullela Gopichand had predicted her to peak during the London Games. Saina herself in an interview to NDTV, said that she was training extremely hard and hoped to do well.
While the pressure of now going all the way may be on the world number 5 with world number 1 Yihan Wang of China obstructing her view of the podium. Saina however has excellent form backing her and although she may have not beaten Wang in their last five encounters, will know that she has found India's affection already and it is not dependent on whether her bag is packed with an Olympic medal or not.
(Saina's match against Wang begins at 1330hrs IST)