After a famous victory over Pakistan in the Asia Cup, Indian sport has another reason to celebrate with Saina Nehwal crowning herself with back-to-back victories at the Grand Prix India Open and the Super-Series Singapore Open. The Singapore Open is her second Super Series win following her victory at the Indonesian Open last year.
This is just the latest in a string of achievements by this young shuttler in a sport India is not renowned to be a powerhouse in. Nonetheless, Indian badminton can boast of some noteworthy successes namely Prakash Padukone, the tragic Syed Modi and more recently Pulella Gopichand, who also happens to be Nehwal’s coach.
This young 20 year old is the latest star in the firmament of Indian badminton and more importantly Indian sport. And that is something to celebrate because for a nation of over a billion people, we have far too few sports stars our youngsters can model themselves on.
Saina first came to prominence in 2006 when she won the Philippines Open, the first Indian woman to win a 4 star tournament.
She has gone from strength to strength. She reached the quarter-finals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics losing to her opponent Maria Kristin Yulianti because she seemed to lack the stamina to play long games. It was a weakness acknowledged back then when she said that she would work on that aspect of her game and on having the patience to play longer rallies and stay with her fitter opponents.
It is something that she appears to have rectified with a vengeance. She is now No. 6 in the world and it is only the redoubtable Chinese players who stand in her way keeping her from attaining the No. 1 spot in women’s badminton. She makes no bones about her ambition to be No. 1 in the sport and why not? She can beat the best on her day as she so amply proved in the Singapore Open beating the 4th seeded Lan Lu of China 8-21, 21-17, 21-8 in 49 minutes in the semifinals.
Her other achievements include reaching the semi-finals of the All England badminton championships, considered the equivalent of Wimbledon in the badminton tournament circuit. Prakash Padukone was the first Indian man to hoist the trophy, followed by Syed Modi and more recently Pulella Gopichand.
Saina Nehwal may not be as glamorous or high profile as her namesake Sania Mirza (well, almost a name-sake!) but make no mistake she has far more peaks to climb and climb them she will!
Here’s wishing her more success in her badminton career!