It was a week to remember for Indian badminton as Saina Nehwal created history at Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham at the All England Open. The top Indian shuttler may have fallen at the last hurdle to World Champion Carolina Marin 21-16, 14-21, 7-21 but not before reaching a personal milestone.
This was Saina’s first ever appearance in the final of the world’s oldest badminton tournament. This was also the first time ever for an Indian woman to make it to the summit clash of the All England Open.
Saina Nehwal’s first complete victory over Wang Yihan
The India number one was in sublime form throughout the event and displayed a new found confidence possibly the result of improved fitness and tactics after teaming up with new coach Vimal Kumar. That confidence saw her beating the former world number one Wang Yihan who had troubled her for years. Yihan had beaten her 8 out of 9 times and the only win that Saina had over the Chinese star came due to Yihan’s retirement at the Denmark Open in 2012.
So Saina Nehwal’s 21-19, 21-6 victory over Yihan in the quarter-finals is a big boost for the world number three. This triumph will surely give Saina Nehwal a mental edge the next time she faces the Chinese badminton stars.
HS Prannoy was the best performer in men’s singles
World #19 HS Prannoy was the best performing Indian in men’s singles in the season’s first Superseries Premier event. Prannoy was the only Indian to reach the second round in this category. He went down fighting to 22nd-ranked Rajiv Ouseph of England in a close three setter , 21-17, 19-21, 18-21.
Meanwhile, the top two Indian shuttlers – Kidambi Srikanth and Parupalli Kashyap bowed out in the first round. While Srikanth exited in a closely contested match 18-21, 21-12, 15-21 to #14 Kento Momota, the 2015 Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold winner Kashyap crashed out 13-21, 12-21 to #8 Chou Tien Chen.
Ajay Jayaram was the other Indian in the main draw who came through the qualifiers. He lost in the first round 14-21, 21-19, 14-21 to #13 Tian Houwei. Anand Pawar could not make it to the main draw as he lost to compatriot Jayaram in the second round of men’s singles qualifiers.
Doubles – Attri/Reddy upset 7th seeds
The unseeded duo of Manu Attri and B. Sumeeth Reddy began their campaign with a huge upset when they toppled the seventh seeds Chai Biao and Hong Wei of China. The Indians came back from a game down to win 9-21, 21-17, 21-17. They however went down 13-21, 21-19, 15-21 to Indonesians Gideon Markus Fernaldi and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo in the next round.
Former World Championships bronze medallists Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa’s run came to an end in the second round of women’s doubles. The Indians had an uphill task as they faced the top-seeded duo of Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei. Jwala and Ashwini lost 10-21, 13-21.
It was extremely unfortunate for the mixed doubles pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and Vladimir Ivanov as they had to retire in the first round of qualifying due to Ivanov’s hand injury. The Indo-Russian pair retired with the score 21-19, 8-11 to hand a win to the English duo of Christopher Coles/Sophie Brown.
Siril Verma, Ansal Yadav reach German Junior Open quarters
Meanwhile, some of the talented junior Indian badminton players also flourished at the German Junior Open which was held last week. Ansal Yadav and Siril Verma both reached the last-eight stage in men’s singles.
While Yadav lost a very close encounter 21-23, 23-21, 23-25 to second seed Seung Jae Seo, Verma succumbed to a 14-21, 19-21 defeat to eventual champion Satheishtharan R of Malaysia. Apart from them, Rahul Yadav Chittaboina reached the fourth round as well.
In women’s singles, Sai Uttejitha Rao Chukka was the best performing Indian who reached the third round. She went down 8-21, 13-21 to Japanese Saena Kawakami.
This week: Swiss GP
This week many of the top Indian badminton players will be in action at the Swiss Grand Prix Gold in Basel. The Indians are led by Kidambi Srikanth who is the top seed in men’s singles. He is joined by Anand Pawar, Ajay Jayaram and B. Sai Praneeth in men’s singles.
In men’s doubles, the Indian pairs competing are Manu Attri/B. Sumeeth Reddy and Pranaav Jerry Chopra/Akshay Dewalkar.
In the latest BWF world rankings, HS Prannoy moved down one spot to 19 in men’s singles while compatriots Kidambi Srikanth and Parupalli Kashyap held on to the 5th and 12th positions respectively.
In women’s singles, Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu remained at the 3rd and 9th positions respectively. View the latest BWF rankings here.