It was not very long ago, that Saina Nehwal was an aspiring shuttler trying to break into the big stage. And now she is a revered icon, not only in India but across the globe. She first rose to prominence in 2006 after she won the Philippines Open, even though she entered the tournament as an unknown entity. She proved it again with a superb win at the Asian Satellite Badminton Tournament (India chapter). This was her second satellite triumph in as many years and she never looked back thereafter.
She went on to win many tournaments, including the bronze medal the 2012 London Olympics. Saina, who was ranked 84th in the world during the Philippines Open in 2006, is now at the third spot in the world ranking charts. She has been in the top five for quite some-time now and has maintained that quite consistently.
Saina took an off from the game for two months basking in the Olympic glory, but as soon as she returned it was business for her as usual. She won the Denmark Open, her sixth premier title and second of the year, and was runners up at the French Open. Saina now has won four titles this year (Swiss Open, Thailand Open, Indonesia Open and Denmark Open) in addition to her Olympic Bronze.
Her achievements and growth in stature has seen her become the highest paid sportsperson (non-cricket) in the country.
Saina’s appetite for the success is great and always strives to conquer higher endeavours.Saina was born in Haryana but spent her childhood growing up in Hyderabad. And it was here that she was scouted and started training at the SAI, Hyderabad.
Saina created history in 2008 Beijing Olympics and after she became the first Indian women to reach the quarterfinals. She then entered the tournament one of the underdogs, but four years later in London, Saina was billed as a medal contender. She justified the tag and even if she was a little lucky in the bronze medal encounter where her opponent conceded the match due to injury, the 22-year-old Indian totally deserved the medal.
Saina’s impressive run in the sport has not only earned her fans but also respect of sports-persons from various other disciplines. She surpassed the achievements of all sports-women in the country and yet she remains down to earth and her sole focus is on the game.
Let us discuss few of the qualities of Saina that has made her the ‘Badminton Queen’ of India.
Focus: Her ability to maintain her focus is what made her so successful. Saina stayed out of the game for two odds months after the London Olympics. But as soon as she stepped on to the court, she meant business. She started firing on all guns and eventually won the Denmark Open.
Big match attitude: Saina has the ability to raise her game in big events. She announced her arrival at the international badminton arena back in 2006 Commonwealth Games, Melbourne where she won the bronze medal. But world actually got to know about her real potential when she made it to the fourth round of her first Olympics held in Beijing. And after that there was nothing that could stop her and she went on win many international tournaments, including 2008 Chinese Taipei Open Grand Prix Gold, 2008 BWF World Junior Championships 2010 Commonwealth Games, 2011 Swiss Open Grand Prix Gold, Denmark Open 2012, London Olympics 2012, amongst others.
Consistency: Saina has been very consistent in her career after she started her escalation. She has been in the top five for quite some time and the way she has maintained is praiseworthy.Saina is the only non-Chinese player in the top five and it all about Saina vs China. Even in Olympics, it was three Chinese and Saina in the semis. She has lost on occasions to them, but then she is only player who has been able to decipher the Chinese code and pose a threat to them.
Fierce competitor: Anyone who knows her will know her approach towards the game. She is very headstrong and often does exert pressure on her in order to succeed. At times it does prove detrimental to her, but then ability to counter the pressure makes her so successful.
In the nation dominated by sport like cricket, Saina has carved out a niche for herself. She also went up to number two position on the World Rankings chart and poses threat to every shuttler she faces. She reached the world number two position in July, 2010 ahead of the girls from China, who have been dominating this game for so long and have always been in the top five till the injury took its toll on her as she dropped to number six in the world rankings in June, 2011. But regained a place in the top five soon after and the way she is playing it will not be a surprise is she makes it to the pinnacle.
Current Rankings: 3
Highest Rankings: 2
2006 Philippines Open
2009 Indonesia Super Series
2010 Singapore Super Series
2010 Indonesia Super Series
2010 Hong Kong Super Series
Chinese Taipei Open
2010 India Open Grand Prix Gold
Swiss Open 2011
Swiss Open 2012
2012 Indonesia Super Series Premier
2012 London Olympics Bronze
2012 Denmark Super Series Premier
Awards and recognition: Khel Ratna (2010)
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By Samikshan Dutta Choudhury
Indian Sports News Network