|SPORTS & WELLNESS|
Revenge seems to be the latest weapon in her armoury. On her way to the third Super Series title in the current year, World No 4 and Indian badminton ace Saina Nehwal showed how seriously she takes her opponents by humbling two of those who had defeated at big-ticket events earlier this year.
Saina clinched Hong Kong Super Series title last weekend. En route to the crown, the 20-year-old Hyderabadi first avenged her Asian Games quarterfinal loss by hunting down local Pui Yin Yip in a 26-minute demolition. In the finals, too, Saina completed a double payback by dislodging Chinese Shixian Wang, who had undone her in the quarterfinals at the Paris World Championships in August last. In a free-wheeling chat, she talks about the fourth overall Super Series title, avenging past defeats, imminent Numero Uno spot and much more.
Where do you place this win?
This is extra-special for me. After the Asian Games disappointment, I wanted to win here. I am happy I could do that. This is my third Super series title this year but this is the best of all. I had to beat the Asian Games gold medallist to win the title. It feels nice to among the top player in the world.
You seem to be relishing the revenge on your opponents?
I only aim to win every time I take to court, irrespective of who my opponent is. But, yes, it feels nice to beat somebody who had got the better of you sometime back. It gives one the confidence that one can beat them in their own backyard. Beating Pui was important after my Asiad loss to her.
The top three players in the world rankings are still Chinese. Beating one of them (Shixian Wang) must have been very satisfactory?
The Chinese are strong players but they are beatable also. Beating Shixian, the world No 2, in the final had to be special. We have the talent to take on the Chinese or anybody in the world now.
This win also guarantees you a place in Super series finals to be held in Chinese Taipei in January next. How do you view the upcoming challenges?
Oh, it is going to be tough as the best in the business will be there to bag the title. I will try my best. However, my immediate target is the Indian Grand Prix at Hyderabad next week.
You had made no bones about the poor show at the Asian Games and hinted that preparations were not ideal for Guangzhou. What went wrong then?
I guess the timing was a very crucial factor. The Commonwealth Games had drained me both physically and mentally, as there was pressure on me to win for the country. Coming into the Asian Games within a span of just three weeks was not enough.
How far is the Number One spot from here?
I don’t know exactly. Rankings can be taken care of if I keep on winning the tournaments. Keeping a track of fitness and adhering to my training schedule is what is more important than the rankings. Sooner or later, with hard work I will reach there, too.
After the Asiad loss, any special training or strategy you employed here?
Not at all. My training schedule has been the same for all the tournaments. I, in fact, did not train much before this tourney and had decided to relax after the gruelling schedule we followed before the Asian Games.
Arjun Atwal's triumph in the Wyndham Championship was the biggest achievement for Indian golf`A0in 2010. Yes, Arjun Atwal became the first Indian to win on the US PGA Tour. This 37-year-old golfer, who comes from an affluent Punjabi family settled in West Bengal, scripted golf history on US soil on August 20 this year, carding a 20-under 260 score.
The nearest an Indian golfer had come to winning on the US PGA Tour was Jeev Milkha Singh, who finished tied ninth in the 2008 PGA championship at Oakland Hills, for which he was honoured with the Padmashri in 2009.
Atwal's historic triumph also fetched him a place in the list of nominees for the Asian Tour's Special Achievement Award along with Korean Noh Seung-yul and Thai legend Boonchu Ruanqkit. On December 19, tour officials and members of the media will name the winner during the Asian`A0Tour Awards Gala, which will take place at the Hyatt Regency, Hua Hin, Thailand.
It was a welcome return to form for Atwal, who had struggled with injuries over the years. His triumph at Greensboro was all the more spectacular as Atwal had to qualify for the event after losing his playing rights on the world’s richest turf. He was also the first Monday-qualifier to win a tournament on the US PGA Tour in 24 years. It also secured Atwal an invitation to next year's Master's Tournament. This makes him the second Indian, after Jeev Milkha Singh, to play in the Augusta Masters.
Injuries stalk Jeev
With Tiger Woods as his neighbour in Florida for the past five years, Atwal says the former world champion was his best mental trainer. Tiger Woods' advice to Atwal on that day as he teed off was: Get to 21-under buddy". Atwal says he heeded the advice and came just a stroke short of the target, but that was enough to win by one stroke.
But it was a bad year for Chandigarh's golf icon, Jeev Milkha Singh, who was plagued by injuries and was struggling to find form. His world ranking fell disastrously to 162 this year-end. So bad was his condition that he had to withdraw from the Casio World Open at Kochi in Japan after the first two rounds due to a recurrent shoulder injury.
This is where Jeev's season came to a close. He is now back in Delhi consulting doctors. He will now be spending the off-season resting and recuperating before the start of the 2011 season.
Jeev, who turned 39 on December 15, has fallen one rank behind Atwal in world rankings. Jeev has it in`A0him to make it big. And this was amply demonstrated by the talented player from 2007 to 2009, when his world ranking reached a career high of 36. His European ranking reached 48 and he won the Asian Tour Players' Player of the Year Award.
Talking about the injury, Jeev said: I actually feared the worst. There is a muscle tear around the L4 and L5, and there is a slight bulge in one of the discs, which is pinching against a nerve, causing intense pain.
"The doctor has asked me to take complete rest for three weeks with intensive physiotherapy sessions. Hopefully, the disc will move back in place soon there should not be any long-term damage.
"If all goes well over the next few days, I will be able to resume practising in the New Year. Unfortunately, I will have to pull out of the Hero Honda Indian Open. It is a huge disappointment for me because I was looking forward to playing in India after a long gap, and also because I greatly admire what Hero Honda has done for Indian golf, as well as for me personally."
Jeev's best performance this year was tied seventh in the UBS Hong Kong Open played on the greens of the Hong Kong Golf Club at Fanling, returning a 17 under par score. He finished his European Tour season with a final ranking in the Race to Dubai of 74th. Jeev may also miss out from next month's Royal Trophy at the Black Mountain Golf Club in Hua Hin. In his words: "I have committed to the Royal, but I can take a decision only after the MRI is done on December 21 and 22. I am positive, but if the doctor says that I need rest, then I will have to give it a miss".
Bhullar has good opener
Kapurthala's Gaganjeet Bhullar, who turned 22 on April 27, got off to a good start winning the season-opener Asian Tour International in Thailand. He showed his class when he recovered from a six-stroke deficit to defeat Korea's Hwang Inn-choon by one stroke.
Gaganjeet, who finished sixth in the Asian Tour order of merit in 2009, is occupying the 17th slot this season. He has recorded only four top 10 finishes in 14 events he has played so far. He finished fourth in the Brunei Open, sixth in the SAIL Open and tied eighth in the Handa Singapore Chassic.
The Kapurthala boy is trailing 28-year-old Delhi golfer Shiv Kapur, who occupies the 16th slot, one better than Gaganjeet, who missed the cut in the Avantha Masters and the Omega European Masters.
Asiad silver for amateurs
The amateur foursome of Rashid Khan, Abhinav Lohan, Abhijit Chadha and Rahul Bajaj did the country proud when they retained the golf silver medal in the Asian Games with a team total of 874.
The Indian team
finished far behind the South Korean team, who tallied 22 under 842 to
retain the top Asian slot. At Doha, the Indian squad had also clinched
the silver medal.
Nineteen-year-old Abhijit Chadha of Chandigarh was part of the Indian squad and was among the three best scorers on the second and third days of the event. In the team event three of the four best scores were counted on each of the four days to determine the winning team.`A0
Talking about the playing conditions, Abhijit said the greens were hard and fast and there were swirling winds on the first and third day. "Our team outplayed others on days there was no wind. But then Koreans were the masters in swirling winds," said the golfer.
Saaniya's dream run
A dream run by Chandigarh's Saaniya Sharma in the sixth leg of the Hero Honda Women's Professional Golf Tour saw her occupying the second slot in the merit list of the Women's Golf Association of Inida.
The dream run by this 24 year-old came
on the final day of the championship when she fired six birdies to
return a four under 69 card to finish second in the tournament and also
pushed her up to the second slot in the WGAI rankings. Placed on top of
the rankings is 19-year-old Sharmila Nicollet from Bangalore. While
Sharmila has won four of the six tournament played so far, Saaniya and
Nalini Singh`A0 Siwach have won one tournament each.