Saina Has Fond Memories of Retiring Anna

By Avishek Roy

New Delhi, Oct 12 (IANS) For the second time in three days, Anna Rice walked up to Saina Nehwal to shake hands after being outclassed by the Indian. First it was after their mixed team event and Monday night in the singles. Saina took a step closer to her dream of winning singles gold, but she was not ecstatic.

Saina's eyes spoke of the admiration for the senior pro as the two smiled and shook hands, amid chants of 'Saina, Saina' from the packed Siri Fort badminton hall. Only the two knew what the moment meant to them.

Anna quietly took a step back, ran her moist eyes through the arena as the Canadian bid adieu to be badminton court, after an eventful career spanning 12 years.

A strange mix of feelings engulfed Anna. She was happy that she had contributed her bit in shaping the champion player that Saina is today; teaching the teenager how to navigate her way through the rigours of interntional badminton.

To see what Saina meant to Indian sport and world badminton made her proud.

"We have spent some good times together. She started pretty early, 15 or 16. It is tough when you start your international career early, but at the same time it turns out to be a big advantage as a player. Now I can see she has matured beyond her age," said Anna, world no 29.

"She is a star now. You can see how popular she is in India. You could not have asked for a better thing to happen in Indian sport and world badminton," said Anna,32.

"I remember she would come to me and complain 'why am I losing in three sets' and I would make her understand that it is a process and you will learn gradually. She is passionate about the game, she learnt it fast and was quick to climb up the ladder."

While Anna fondly recollected those memorable days, Saina paid her obeisance to the Canadian.

"I was new to the circuit. She was a big help when I had no personal coach. She would often sit at my corner during my matches and tell me how to tackle an opponent. She knew all the top players and she would brief me about them."

"I played doubles with her. It used to be a good practice for me and a learning experience. When you are starting, playing doubles helps to understand the game in a lot of ways. Anna was an ideal partner," Saina said.

"I played her after a long time here and she is improving even now."

Anna, however, feels otherwise.

"I had my days under the sun. I want to play but I know I am not fast enough to compete with these youngsters," says Anna, as she fought back tears, picked her bag and left the court, going past Saina. The Indian spoke about her next opponent and her chances of winning the gold.


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