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Sunday, November 16, 2008

Saina Nehwal will be world no 1: Prakash Padukone

Saina Nehwal is a 'champion material' and in another three years, India can look forward to seeing a world number one in the Hyderabadi youngster, said legendary shuttler Prakash Padukone.

Seventeen-year-old Saina has most of the qualities a champion needs -- physical, technical, mental and self-belief -- the former All England Champion said.

"If she continues to work hard and remain focused, there is no reason why she can't reach the very top", Padukone, himself a former world number one and a World Cup winner, said.

"It (Saina becoming world number one) is definitely possible. She is already at 11 (in world rankings) now. It's just a matter of time before she breaks into the top 10", he said.

"I think within a year, she is definitely capable of being in top five, and go on to even become number one may be in two-three years," he said.

This year has been an extraordinary one for Saina, who reached the quarterfinals in the Beijing Olympics and won the recent World Junior Badminton title.

"If she continues like this, she has got everything going right", Padukone said, terming her performance in the two events as impressive, creditable and commendable.

"One can look forward to some great performances from her in the future," he said.

Saina needs to plan her tournament schedule properly, Padukone said, advising her to be selective about tournaments and space them out in such a way that she gets enough time and rest and can work on her weaknesses in between.

Training for short stints abroad -- may be in Malaysia or Indonesia -- would be a good idea for her as such outings would help her familiarise more with the type of game that foreigners play.

"They (foreign players) play a different kind of game, compared to the Indians. So, that does not come as a surprise to you when you play them (If you have short training stints abroad)", Padukone said.

On her quarter-final defeat in Beijing Games, he said that was more due to lack of her experience. Saina was mentally very strong and had self-belief, which were the key factors.

"She believes now that she can beat the best in the world," Padukone said, but cautioned that she should also be prepared to face some defeats along the way as the other players would not give her titles on a platter.

"You have to be prepared mentally to face some reversals...may be one or two odd defeats will be there. That should not upset you", he said.

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