Macau, Dec 2: India's ace shuttler Saina Nehwal's journey at the Macau Open Grand Prix Gold badminton tournament ended today (December 2) with a quarter-final loss.
On Friday, top seed Saina lost to China's Yiman Zhang 21-12, 21-17 in straight games. The Indian was playing her 3rd tournament since returning from a knee surgery. Zhang is world number 226 and was unseeded here.
Saina, who failed to qualify for the knockout stages of the Rio Olympics 2016, had made a comeback to the courts at China Open, where she lost in the first round.
In the next tournament - Hong Kong Open, Saina reached the quarter-finals but could not progress further. Here again in Macau, she has failed to cross the last-8 hurdle.
Saina, who is currently ranked 10th in the world, also failed to qualify for the season-ending Dubai Superseries Finals. India will be represented by PV Sindhu, who has risen to No. 7 in world rankings. Sindhu has skipped Macau Open as she prepares for Dubai event.
According to Saina's coach Vimal Kumar, Saina will be back to her best by January-end. Yesterday (December 1), he said, "She is definitely not back to her best and has some way to go before she can aspire to win big tournaments again. She needs some more time, may be in terms of physical and strength aspects in which she needs to improve."
"After this (Macau) there's nothing for her till end-January - the Syed Modi memorial Grand Prix Gold (in Lucknow). Of course PBL (Premier Badminton League) is there (in the first part of January) in which she will play, being one of the big names. But it lasts two weeks and is not a very high intensity competition, in the real sense," said Vimal.
"In another 4-6 weeks (she should be back to top level) once she starts high intensity training. She has enough time when she enters that (Modi memorial) competition and if nothing goes wrong, from end-January onwards she will be a strong contender.
"When she comes back (from Macau) we will have to see when she can start high intensity training. I have given all power to the trainer. Their session comes first and on-court badminton comes second. I have told him to ensure that the leg is good. There's enough time. She can do good training and come back,"