Saina Nehwal: Is she the Rafael Nadal of India?

Ask any tennis fan, and he will tell you that Rafael Nadal has been a pillar of inner strength and determination when it comes to meeting the nearly-impossible goals. His journey to defeat Novak Djokovic after losing seven consecutive finals was, I believe, the epitome of his mental fortitude and never-say-die attitude.

Yes, Rafael Nadal lost seven times to Novak Djokovic before he overcame his biggest hurdle at the Monte Carlo Masters in April this year.  This made headlines of every newspaper and his victory over Djokovic was a big achievement.

However, this article is not aimed to revisit his achievement but to share with the readers the news of our very own Indian badminton star Saina Nehwal, who achieved a similar kind of feat just last week in Denmark Open, and was mentioned scarcely in our newspapers.

After six straight defeats (including the humiliating defeat at the Olympics) at the hands of the ‘Chinese Wall’, World No. 1 Wang Yihan, the young athlete from Hyderabad was not to be tamed again in her seventh encounter last week at Denmark Open.  The rivalry, which started off in May 2010, grew fierce with time as Saina was unable to conquer the biggest opponent of her life – until now.

Saina went on to win the Denmark Open eventually, but her remarkable rise to the top in Badminton is still unexplored by the media. Not many people, including myself, even knew about her accomplishment of breaking the ‘Chinese Wall’.

Having followed the Nadal-Djokovic rivalry very closely last year, I have seen the endurance of Rafael Nadal and the emotional trauma he underwent in getting closer to overcome his rival in every match.  After every loss, he would seem lost and the pain of each loss was clearly visible in his eyes. I can only imagine the same kind of pressure on this 22-year-old, who through showing similar kind of spirit, was able to finally reach the summit. For me, she is the Rafael Nadal of badminton – and India.

The irony is that whereas Rafael Nadal is the king of sports in Spain, Saina Nehwal still falls behind the line up of Indian cricketers. In my opinion, this young athlete, who has been an inspiration to every little girl in India, deserves a lot more attention than Indian cricketers. Simply for the reason that to rise in a male dominated, cricket fanatic society such as ours, one should be incredibly dogmatic and hard working in their approach of achieving their goals.

When Saina was born, it was a day of sadness for her grandmother as she wanted a boy.  Her relations with her family are strained even today, as they were against encouraging girls. If not for her parents’ openness and support, India would have lost out on a determined young sports star. To be able to overcome the bias prevalent in our society towards girls is a feat in itself; which to me is the sign of a person full of courage, strength and determination.

To rise in cricket is natural in India because everyone loves cricket and male participation is encouraged in sports. But to rise in sports other than cricket is a feat considered nearly impossible till a few years ago; and that a girl has done it should be a story of pride for anyone in India.

Hopefully, many girls will be inspired by Saina Nehwal and rise up to change the way India is seen in terms of sports participation and excellence. We have our own Rafael Nadal in the form of Saina Nehwal and maybe one day, she will get the same reputation as him.

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This story was published on ( ) by Apeksha HA.

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