Saina was in tears after losing close matches: Coach Vimal Kumar

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New Delhi, Mar 29: A series of losses against top shuttlers had left Saina Nehwal in tears but the Indian ace showed tremendous drive and hunger to achieve the World No 1 status, former national coach Vimal Kumar said here on March 28.

The two-time former national champion, who has been training Saina ever since her split with long-time mentor Pullela Gopichand in September last year, said the drive and hunger shown by the Indian ace can be compared to tennis greats such as Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. [Historic feat: Saina Nehwal becomes World No. 1]

Saina Nehwal

"She is the one best player in the world. She was going through a lean phase which happens to any top sports person. It is her efforts; she has got good work ethics. I see in her that desire to excel that only a few possess like Roger Federer or (Rafael) Nadal. They have achieved so much but still want to be the best. I see that drive in Saina," Vimal told reporters at the Siri Fort Sports Complex.

"When you are the top 8 there is always a good possibility to be no 1. How consistent you are that matters. Now she has gone there it will be tough to maintain that. She has to show consistency. She has shown that last 2-3 months and I am happy for her. [Saina Nehwal reaches India Open final, will take on ex-World Champion Ratchanok Intanon]

"It is a great achievement and very creditable. Personally I feel very happy for her because she was literally in tears when she was losing, that frustration you can see when you go through those times. Now she has to maintain that intensity and focus because it is tougher to be there at the top," he added.

Vimal further said, "After the Asian games, when I watched her play in Denmark and French, she was leading and losing, I told her there is nothing wrong and she can achieve it. She is a demanding girl, I am getting old so it was not easy to be there at the court for 6-7 hours, there were times when I had to tell her to stop. So it is not easy to have that focus and drive and that is what has taken her here. So I will give her all the credit."

Vimal, who represented India at the Barcelona Olympics in 1992, said he helped Saina to take responsibility and analyse her game so that she can find her way out of a tricky match situation.

"I lived in Europe so I think little differently. I always felt she needed to make some decisions. When she came to me, I wanted her to be independent. You need to develop so that you don't feel disappointed, you need to learn to take the responsibility," he said.

PTI

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