Focus on fitness, Saina Nehwal not thinking of Tokyo Olympics yet

Saina Nehwal, who has skipped the Denmark Open, aims to return to competitive badminton in January in Thailand.

By Rahul Venkat ·

London 2012 bronze-medallist Saina Nehwal’s primary goal is to do as well as she can when she returns to the badminton court in January next year and not think too much about qualifying for the Tokyo Olympics.

“I have no plans as to how I will approach the qualification period for the Olympics next year,” Nehwal told IANS.

“I am only trying to improve my fitness and look after my injuries during this period and do well in competitions. I am not thinking much about qualifying for the Olympics.”

The 30-year-old Nehwal was slated to return to competitive badminton at the Super 750 Denmark Open next week but opted out along with husband and fellow shuttler Parupalli Kashyap. The Denmark Open begins on Tuesday in Odense.

The duo has instead planned a return to court in January 2021 at the three-tournament Asian leg of the 2020 BWF World Tour in Thailand.

It will then be the first time that Saina Nehwal will play since March this year when the Badminton World Federation (BWF) halted the season and froze the rankings due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She was last on the court at the All England Championships.

At that stage, Saina Nehwal was No. 22 in the ‘Race to Tokyo’ rankings and faced an uphill task to make the top-16 to earn direct qualification to the Tokyo Olympics. However, she utilised the time off to rejuvenate and recover from a few niggles.

“I took a proper break for a few weeks. I had some issues with my ankle and shins, so it was nice to get that break,” the former world No. 1 added.

“I knew it would take a few months to get back in shape and I made that progress slowly to regain full fitness.”

While Olympic qualification may not be at the top of her mind, Saina Nehwal is expected to approach the qualification period from January to April next year with the intent to make it to her fourth Olympic Games.