Saina Nehwal had just won the Indonesia Masters title but there was no celebration at the moment of triumph. Her opponent Carolina Marin had conceded the match after sustaining an injury to her right knee and Saina's first instinct was to check on the Spaniard who was sitting on the floor in agony.
Saina's empathy came from familiarity. "It's not good to see at all. I've been someone who has been constantly injured for the past few years. To see something like this happen on the court is very painful. I know just how difficult it is to recover from an injury," she would say later.
The 27-year-old had almost called time on her career following a knee injury of her own that ruined her hopes at the Rio Olympics. Subsequently she's put various other parts of her body through more sustained pain. Through it all, she's managed to prevail, coming out stronger to compete with the best. And if there were doubts about her ability to go all the way - she had last won on the BWF World Tour back at the 2017 Malaysia Masters -- she would have quietened those voices on Sunday. Her victory at the Indonesia Masters was her fifth title at the Istora stadium, having made the final a total of six times.
After recovering from a shin ailment that had bothered her towards the end of the last year, Saina admits the title comes as a surprise. "I never thought I would go so far in the tournament as I did so soon after the serious injury I had. The whole of December I took a break. I wasn't even playing that month. I didn't even do any kind of training. The doctor said I couldn't do any running or any impact training. It had to be only slow movements and he said I could only do very light training for two weeks. The match with Sindhu I had at the start of the year (in the PBL) was my first match in a long time," she says.
She had been realistic about her expectations. She had competed at the Malaysia Masters last week and had made the semifinals before being trounced by Marin. "I knew I still needed some more time to match Carolina and Tai Tzu Ying. I knew I needed more time to get ready for the big events," she says.
That being said, Saina must still be pleased with the fact that she's managed to grit out victories despite not being at her physical peak. She was soundly beaten 7-21 by Dinar Ayustine in her very first game in Jakarta, before managing to win in three games. In the semifinals too she would drop the opening game against He Bingjiao before storming back to claim the next two.
"I'm happy with both tournaments (Indonesia and Malaysia). I'd never played against He Bingjiao before and she was playing very well. Earlier in Malaysia I beat Okuhara. All the matches I played were tough matches against really good opponents. So this was a big positive outcome from both tournaments," she said.
Having picked up a victory early in the season, Saina isn't getting carried away. She still hasn't trained as much as she could have owing to her recovery from her latest injury and she knows that the challenge will only get harder in the months to come especially with the All England coming up in March. "It will be a lot tougher there. There's still one more month before then so I'll see how it goes," she says.