Saina Nehwal dropped a broad hint that she might, after all, give her much-awaited clash against India's current badminton poster girl, PV Sindhu a miss on Wednesday.
"I will possibly rest myself for the match against Chennai (Smashers). I'm playing the Malaysia Open next week so I need to tend to my knee and also train for a couple of days. The semifinals and hopefully the finals in New Delhi will be big matches so I'll save up for that," she said.
With four wins in four matches, Saina's team Awadhe Warriors currently tops the Premier Badminton League (PBL) standings with 18 points and is already through to the semifinals which will be played later this week in New Delhi. Winning three out of her four matches so far, including a come-from-behind grudge victory on Monday against Hong Kong's Cheung Ngan Yi, whom she lost to at the Hong Kong Open last year, the No 10-ranked Saina added that the result of the Sindhu match has been rendered inconsequential.
"My match against Sindhu does not really matter. The result will not change anything as far our team's position is concerned, right now I'm just looking forward to the semifinals," she said. Coming off an injury-ridden year, which saw her exit in the group stage of the Rio Olympics and undergo a knee surgery around the same time that the nation was soaked in celebration of Sindhu's historic silver, Saina concedes she's yet to touch her peak fitness.
"My fitness is improving with every match but it's not at its best yet. It also takes a little time to adjust to the 11-point format. I just had two weeks after the Macau Open so my knee didn't get adequate time to rest or recover," she said. She lost to China's Zhang Yiman in the quarterfinals of the tournament in December.
In the 2013 edition of the Indian Badminton League (IBL), Sindhu lost to Saina, who finished with a bronze in the 2012 London Games, in straight games. At their Indian Grand Prix Gold meeting the following year Sindhu again met with a similar fate. Today, Sindhu, 21, is a different player - gritty, breathing aggression and effectively combining skill and attitude to scuttle opponents.
Living under Saina's shadow for long, Sindhu's redeeming Olympic silver allowed her to position herself as India's most successful badminton star. But with Saina possibly choosing to give the second-most awaited clash of the tournament, after the Carolina Marin-Sindhu opener, a miss, it's a dampener all the way for fans.