In every business and sports environment, the ‘firsts’ are always special. Similarly, Saina Nehwal defines the ‘firsts’ for Indian Badminton. She not only was the first Woman badminton player to clinch various titles but also to eventually become the World no. 1. With such performances, she has inspired the World to praise and feel proud of Indian badminton. Here I have highlighted her top 5 performances that scripted her name in Indian Badminton history.
The Philippines Open (2006)
In May 2006, Saina Nehwal became the first Indian woman and the youngest in Asia to win a four-star tournament-the Philippines Open.
She was just 16 years old when she clinched the title. Ranked 86 in the world at that time, she defeated several top-seeded players including the then World no. 4, Xu Huaiwen. She then stunned the seventh seed and World no. 6, Pei Xian Julia Wong of Malaysia for the title. With this victory, the young Saina Nehwal announced her entry into the International circuit.
World Junior Championship (2008)
After losing the finals for consecutive two years against Wang Yihan, Saina finally won the World Junior Championship and became the first Indian to clinch the title. She was the top-seeded player and defeated the ninth-seeded, Sayako Sato 21-9, 21-18 in the final to be claimed as the winner.
In the same year at the Beijing Olympics, the unseeded Saina defeated the fourth-seeded player, Wang Chen of Hong Kong to become the first Indian to progress to the quarterfinals. With many more accomplishments, she was named ‘The Most Promising Player’ of 2008.
Indonesia Open (2009)
There was no stopping for Saina Nehwal. In June 2009, she became the first Indian to win a BWF Superseries title- The Indonesia Open. She defeated the then World no. 3, Wang Lin of China 12–21, 21–18, 21–9 in the finals to clinch the title.
In the same year, she was conferred with the Arjuna award to recognize her outstanding achievement in the sport.
Commonwealth Games (2010)
In 2010, Nehwal reached her career-high ranking of no. 2 in World. Top-seeded in the Commonwealth Games, she won the gold medal in the women’s singles event in New Delhi. In her journey to clinch the title, she beat the then World no. 19, Wong Mey Choo of Malaysia, 19-21, 23-21, 21-13 in the finals.
London Olympics (2012)
Indian badminton was missing out on the Olympic medal for several years and Saina Nehwal cleared of the emptiness of an Olympic medal.
Till the semifinals, she defeated all her opponents in straight games. On August 4, she won the bronze medal when China’s Wang Xin retired from the match after an injury.
“When I was standing on podium, I started crying. I thought of all the hard work I have put in all these years. It gave me inspiration. It’s just the beginning and I will win many more medals,” said Saina after the historic moment.
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