The shuttler earlier said that she is moving towards the end of her career.

Veteran Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal bowed out of the Indonesia Masters 2023 in the second round on Thursday, raising concerns over her future and the national team. The Haryana-ace failed to take the match in her grasp as her eighth-seeded counterpart Yue Han of China dominated from the word go to close the round at 15-21, 7-21 with ease. 

It was yet another early exit for Nehwal who has looked like the pale shadow of her true self ever since returning to the court after failing to book a berth for the Tokyo Olympics. Her only near-convincing performance came at the Singapore Open 2022 in July last year, where she reached the quarter-finals of the $370,000 event.

However, with the rescheduled Asian Games 2022 looming large, the London 2012 bronze medalist will have to emerge from her shadows and address the areas of concern in what could turn out to be a crucial year in the Paris 2024 cycle.

Ahead of that, Khel Now dives deep to figure out a few points which are keeping her at bay from a podium finish in the current scheme of things:

Needs to find her rhythm

First and second round exits for the pioneers of Indian women’s badminton have been recorded in abundance in the recent past. 

Apart from her second round exit at the Indonesia Masters, Saina Nehwal bowed out of the India Open in the Round of 16, the Malaysia Open (first round), French Open (first round), Denmark Open (first round) and Japan Open (first round). The last time she could make it to a third round across events was at the World Championships in August 2022. 

The Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna awardee needs to find her rhythm as time and again she has failed to put up a challenge for the title which has directly affected her position in the World Rankings. And with nearly 15 years of experience up her sleeve, the veteran will rely on her fighting spirit in the twilight of her career, to end on a high.

Multiple factors due to age

Age is just a number and prime athletes have proved it from time to time. But age comes with its own repercussions. 

As much as Nehwal thrives on the faster court conditions, with aggression and hunger helping her peak, the diminishing agility has affected her movement in recent times. However, her trademark calmness and brilliant court coverage, will be the key to overcoming the younger opponents who are naturally far more energetic and keen on leaving a mark early in the game. Besides that, the 32-year-old will have to focus on fitness with age catching up.

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What lies ahead for the veteran Indian?

Saina Nehwal will be up for a steep challenge in a crucial year. Her first goal will be to put her best foot forward at the 2023 Thailand Masters which is slated to get underway from January 31 in Bangkok. 

Moreover, it is understandable that the veteran Indian shuttler is already looking beyond team events to prolong her singles career. She skipped the national badminton trials earlier this month for the Asian Mixed Team Championships, to be held in Dubai from February 14 to 19.

Also, It will be now up to the World No. 20 to make the most of her game-time ahead of the continental event in September.

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