Mumbai, Jul 1: The hype around tennis ace Sania Mirza may be bigger but ace shuttler Saina Nehwal clearly has the edge in terms of performance, feels badminton legend Prakash Padukone.
Comparing both the Hyderabadis's achievements, Padukone said the fact that Saina has beaten more higher ranked players than Sania tilts the balance in the shuttler's favour.
"I don't go by the rankings which can be achieved by picking and choosing the tournaments one wants to play. But Saina has beaten more top-rated players than Sania and I would rate her performance higher," the former shuttler said.
Prakash felt Saina, who recently won the Indonesian Super Series, had it in her to become the world number one within two years' time.
"Saina has all the qualities to become the world number one, provided she continues to work hard and maintain her form," Prakash said on the sidelines of the media conference to announce the entries for the Tata Open Badminton tournament commencing at the Cricket Club of India tomorrow.
Prakash said from whatever little he has seen of Saina's game of late, she seems to have improved her net play and movement on the court.
"She has improved her play at the net and is also moving better. She has always been fit but now seems fitter. But she should not rest on her laurels and strive to get better in all these areas," he said.
Prakash also asked the men shuttlers, five of whom are in the top 50, to take inspiration from Saina's performance and put up better displays at the international level.
"They should draw inspiration from Saina's performance. After all the facilities for her and them are the same. What I feel is that they need to improve their self-belief when playing against the top players from China, Indonesia and so on," he felt.
"I'm happy that five our our men shuttlers are in the top 50 and seven are in the top 100, but this is not enough. They are all talented and hard working. But they need to put in more effort," he said.
The former All England champion said that in tournaments like Super Series a player needs to get past three or four very highly rated rivals before winning the title.
"They should be prepared to take on three or four top players in succession from early on," he said.
Prakash agreed that the depth in women's competitions were not as high as the men's, but said it did not take anything away from Saina's performance.
"It's not her fault. It's the same in tennis too, I guess," he said.