Saina Nehwal inspired by Nadal and Federer to fight for place at Tokyo 2020: "I can be the best in the world"

India's superstar shuttler has Tokyo 2020 in her sights and is aiming to find her rhythm once more 

By Ken Browne ·

When Saina Newhal won badminton bronze at London 2012 at just 22 years of age, many saw it as just the beginning.

Now 30, Nehwal has slipped to No.22 in the world rankings, but giving up is not in her nature.

"I know Olympics is in everyone's head. It's something very big but before that you have to think about so many tournaments. I've to get back to my rhythm and win against the players who are in top-20," Nehwal said in a virtual interactive session hosted by the Indian Chamber of Commerce.

I'm definitely in the race." - Saina Nehwal

"There's some two-three months' of training before that. You have to be perfectly fine and play seven-eight tournaments, after that only I will think about the Olympics. But yes, I'm definitely in the race. I want to do well and I'm working hard for that."

Nehwal reached World No.1 in 2015, winning silver at the World Championships in Jakarta, Indonesia, but crashed out of Rio 2016 in the group stage, stunned by Ukranian Marija Ulitina in a loss that sent shockwaves through India.

Tokyo 2020 could represent a shot at Olympic redemption and she's looking to other Olympic stars for inspiration.

Nadal and Federer longevity inspires Saina Nehwal

Roger Federer (39) and Rafa Nadal (34) may be tennis players, but both Olympic gold medallists inspire Nehwal as their careers continue at the top of the game.

Both Federer and Nadal plan to play at Tokyo 2020, Federer will be 40 and Nadal 35, and Nehwal is determined to join them.

"I can see great examples in Djokovic, Federer, Nadal, Serena doing so well. Why not you have to see how it goes? I'm a fighter and I will get back. When he can do it, why can't I?" she said.

"Yes, there were times when I felt I have to 'stop playing' and 'I can't win anymore'. But then I thought I could push it. I love to fight. What will I do sitting at home. This is my life, this is my job."

Women's Singles Bronze Medal Match - Badminton | London 2012 Replays

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"I can be the best in the world" - Saina Nehwal

The former world number one recently pulled out of the Denmark Open, the first post Covid-19 pandemic shutdown tournament that restarted international play.

“I withdrew from Denmark Open. I decided that I will start the season from January only with the Asian tour,” she said at the time.

Now she's focussed on her fitness, felling inspired, and yesterday said she can become the best in the world again.

"I'm doing well. Injuries play a big role and that happened to me. As of now, I feel good. I can do it, I can be the best in the world.

"It's always been there in my head. I've to correct my niggles. Improvement is definitely happening. Let's see how I play. I don't want to take that action suddenly. I want to see how badly I lose, if I'm not capable of playing anymore."

Saina Nehwal at age 19

Olympic bronze medallist and Indian badminton star Saina Nehwal first start...