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Interviews
Saina's 'friend, guide' ends career with loss against her

An emotionally overwhelmed Anna Rice could not stop the tears from flowing when she ended her career with a loss against the Indian ace at Delhi 2010.

A good friend of Saina, the 30-year-old Canadian shuttler recalled the days when she played with her, helping the Indian in little ways to become a better player.
    
Anna, who went down 7-21 10-21 to the top seeded crowd favourite in the quarterfinals of women's singles last night, said she still loves the game but it was time to quit.
    
"It is very emotional for me but the feeling is yet to settle in," Anna said, tears welling up in her eyes.
    
"I wanted to play for some time more, I mean I love the game but I guess I can't keep up with these young girls anymore," she added.

Anna and Saina became friends in 2006. Saina had started taking her first steps to the stardom she enjoys now but Anna had already become an Olympian at that time.
    
The world number 31 Canadian said she has seen her friend grow.
    
"She is a player who has matured beyond her age. I started going for international tours at 18-19 but look at her, she was on her own when she was just 15 years old," Rice said.
    
"I remember she used to complain that she is losing in three games and I used to tell her that it is a process," she added.
    
Anna said Saina's success has raised the profile of the sport.
    
"Saina's growing stature is good for the sport in India. As I see it, the gender equality when it comes to sport is not the same in India. Saina's success will increase the profile of the sport as a whole in India and that is good for Badminton also," Anna said.

Saina also acknowledged Anna's contribution to her career.
    
"We have been friends for quite sometime. We had a lot of fun together. When I had started playing the qualifying rounds, we became friends," she recalled.
    
"It was very important to know about the court and know about doubles. She helped me at that time. We used to practice together and play at international level. It helped improve my reflexes and drives.
    
"She even used to sit behind me, guiding me and giving me advice about the weaknesses of my opponents. I didn't have a coach at that time and I didn't know anybody," Saina said.
    
Asked about what she plans to do next, Anna said she would concentrate on coaching young Canadian shuttlers.
    
"I am associated with a coaching job in a non-profit organisation called 'Choose Again' in Vancouver. I will concentrate on coaching. I will also spend a lot of time with my family, let's see how the next phase pans out," she said.

Anna has been playing professional Badminton for more than a decade.
    
She won the 2009 US Open Champion and represented Canada at the International level for over 12 years, including the 2004 Athens Olympics, the 2006 Commonwealth Games, the 2008 Beijing Olympics, as well as several World Championships.
    
At the 2008 Beijing Olympics, Anna became the first female singles player from a Pan-American country to achieve top-16 finish.
    
She won the Canadian National Championships in 2004, 2005, 2008, and 2009.   

- PTI