saina nehwal

A force to reckon with in international badminton

Published: 16th December 2009 08:05 AM  |   Last Updated: 15th May 2012 09:55 PM   |  A+A-


History wasn’t quite there for the taking. An Indian breaching Chinese monopoly was unprecedented. But Saina Nehwal ventured to tread a path that no Indian woman shuttler had ever dared to. On June 21, 2009, she became the first Indian to buckle a Sup­er Series title when she won the Indonesian Op­en. Subsequently, she reached the quarterfinals of the World Ba­d­m­inton Championship in Hyderabad, the first Ind­i­an wo­man to accomplish such a feat.

All the while, since her international debut in 2006, Saina has been improving steadily. But 2009 was to be a challenge. Creditable performances were expected, and she exceeded expectations. No victory in 2009 was sweeter than her resilient win against third-ranked Lin Wang in Indonesia. After losing the opening game rather tamely, she staved off a stiff challenge to clinch the second game before easing to victory in the decider. With that win, Saina truly arrived on the world stage. In July, she reached a career-best world ranking of 6.

Months later, inspired by a supportive home crowd, she reached the qua­r­terfinals of the BWF World Championship — not an easy feat, as her Bulgarian opponent Petya Nedelcheva stretched her in the pre-quarters. Saina lost the opening ga­me, but had the wherewit­hal, both mental and physical, to bounce back. Eventually, she lost to second-seeded Wang Lin in the round of eight, but only after she had poured her heart out.

Sports Illustrated has chosen her as the Indian Sportsperson of the Year and she won the Arjuna Award in 2009. Only 19, her future holds the promise of more. There is no reas­on why she shouldn’t be among the medals in the Commonwealth Games, and As­ian Ga­mes glory would bring her even more joy.


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