Indian Badminton Weekly #10: Saina Nehwal Rises To No 1

A golden chapter was added to Indian badminton history last week as Saina Nehwal became the first Indian woman badminton player to be ranked World No. 1. The shuttle queen celebrated her ascent to the summit by clinching the India Open Superseries title at home. Kidambi Srikanth made it a double delight for Indian badminton by capturing the men’s singles crown at the Siri Fort Complex in New Delhi.

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From left: Ratchanok Intanon and Saina Nehwal with their India Open medals

First India Open Superseries title for Saina Nehwal

All England Open champion Carolina Marin was touted to be the biggest challenger for Saina Nehwal in her quest for the No. 1 ranking. But the Spaniard lost in a thrilling three-game semi-final to 2013 World Champion Ratchanok Intanon, thus clearing the path for the Indian.

Saina, who did not drop a game in the whole tournament, put up a supremely confident display against an opponent who looked tired after her draining 84-minute semi-final. With an array of powerful smashes and brilliant movement, she cruised to her first title at the India Open Superseries after a 21-16, 21-14 victory over Ratchanok Intanon.

A title at home and the numero uno spot – the week gone by will remain etched in Saina’s memories forever. Considering that she never got past the quarters since the India Open was upgraded to the Superseries level in 2011, this was a hugely satisfying achievement for India’s golden girl.

Kidambi Srikanth brings double joy

Indian fans’ joy knew no bounds when shortly after Saina’s win, Kidambi Srikanth annexed the men’s singles title. But the way he did it was even more admirable.

The Guntur-born World No. 4 who had beaten the sixth-ranked Viktor Axelsen at the Swiss Open final two weeks ago, looked out of sorts initially. Struggling against the drift, he conceded the first game to his Danish opponent.

But Srikanth had battled through two three-game matches and was not ready to give up. With a barrage of body smashes and exceptional retrieval skills, he turned the match around. In the third game, Srikanth came back from behind and picked up the last eleven points on the trot to complete the 18-21, 21-13, 21-12 win over an exhausted Axelsen.

HS Prannoy, Sameer Verma, Gurusaidutt impressive

Saina and Srikanth may have reigned supreme at the end of the week.  But quite a few other Indians were very impressive as well.

World No. 17 HS Prannoy stole the show with his huge upset of the 2nd-ranked Jan O Jorgensen. The rising shuttler gave a tough fight to Viktor Axelsen in the quarters as well but lost out narrowly.

Commonwealth Games bronze medallist RMV Gurusaidutt and 20-year-old Sameer Verma both announced themselves on the world stage and this week they made remarkable comebacks from multiple injuries. Both of them came through the qualifiers and their second round face-off turned out to be an exciting contest. Gurusaidutt won that match in 3 and made it to the quarters where he bowed out to Chinese Xue Song.

Earlier in the first round, Sameer Verma put up a stupendous performance to upset the World No. 9 Hans-Kristian Vittinghus.

Parupalli Kashyap lost in the second round while Ajay Jayaram, Anand Pawar and B Sai Praneeth exited in the opening round.

Doubles disappointment

There was not much to talk about India’s doubles campaign at the India Open as none of the Indian teams could get past Round 2.

In men’s doubles, the top-ranked Indian duo of Manu Attri/B Sumeeth Reddy lost 15-21, 11-21 to the Japanese pair of Endo/Hayakawa in the opener. Pranaav Jerry Chopra/Akshay Dewalkar followed suit with defeat to China’s Biao/Wei.

Only pairs to progress to round 2 were Alwin Francis/Arun Vishnu and Tarun Kona/Santosh Ravuri.

In women’s doubles, Jwala Gutta/Ashwini Ponnappa too could not bring home fans any joy as they crashed out 16-21, 18-21 to Ou Dongni/Xiaohan Yu.

11 Indian teams entered the mixed doubles main draw but unfortunately none could secure a first round win.

Rankings Update:

With Saina’s rise to No. 1 set to be official on Thursday, she stays at No. 2 in the latest BWF rankings. PV Sindhu maintains her 9th rank.

In men’s singles, Kidambi Srikanth holds on to #4 while Parupalli Kashyap and HS Prannoy too remain unchanged at #13 and #17 respectively.

The week’s biggest mover was RMV Gurusaidutt who jumped 10 places to No. 50 after his quarter-final appearance at the Polish Open.

This Week: Malaysia Open

High on confidence after the India Open titles, both Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth will look to extend their winning streak at the season’s second Superseries Premier event in Malaysia. Tougher test await both of them as the top Chinese shuttlers will return to the Tour at this tournament.

Srikanth will lead two more Indians in the singles draw – Kashyap and Prannoy.

In doubles, the top Indian pairs of Attri/Reddy and Gutta/Ponnappa will look to get some much-needed confidence-boosting wins.

Check our preview of the Malaysia Open here.




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