Saina Nehwal is a leading light when it comes to Indian badminton. The star shuttler holds her name to many prestigious titles and is the first and only Indian female badminton player to conquer the World no. 1 rank. Known for her courage, strength, and power, she changed the perception of how women’s badminton was seen in India.
She is a former World no. 1 and has 24 International titles to her name including 11 superseries. She has participated in three Olympic editions (2008 Beijing, 2012 London & 2016 Rio) and is still to qualify for her fourth, the Tokyo Olympics. In her terrific career so far, she has represented India at the biggest stages and continues to be an important asset to Indian badminton. Let us take a look at Saina Nehwal’s top 5 performances to date.
World Junior Championship (2008)
After losing the 2006 finals to Wang Yihan, the top seed at the tournament, Saina became the first Indian to clinch the World Junior Badminton Championship title. She thoroughly dominated the ninth seed, Sayaka Sato of Japan to win the title in straight sets, 21-9, 21-18 in a match lasting for only 25 minutes.
It was in the same year that she became the first Indian to reach the quarter-finals of the Olympics at the Beijing Games.
Indonesia Open (2009): China vs Saina
In the era of uncontrollable Chinese domination in women’s badminton, Saina came into highlight to break this domination. By winning the Indonesia Open, she became the only fifth non-Chinese player and the first Indian to win a Superseries title at that time.
Interestingly, she was the only non-Chinese player in the final four. In the semi-finals, she overcame the tough battle of Lu Lan to move into the finals. The finals against World. no3, Wang Lin will be remembered as one of the best performances of Saina to date.
After losing the first game, Saina changed her strategy in her next two games to eventually win the match 12-21, 21-18, and 21-9.
Commonwealth Games: 2010 & 2018
Saina has proved her mettle time and again at the Commonwealth Games, winning gold in both the 2010 & 2018 editions. In the 2010 edition, she faced Malaysia’s Mew Choo Wong in the finals. The title was just about to slip from her hands after losing the first game 19-21 and trailing 20-21 in the second game. However, Saina held her nerves to win the second game 23-21, and clinched the title after winning the third game 21-13.
In the 2018 edition, the finals were something that all Indian fans must have dreamed of. It was Saina versus PV Sindhu, an all-Indian clash set up in Gold Coast, Australia. This came at a time after Sindhu won silver at the Rio Olympics and was starting to become the new star of Indian badminton.
Also read: Badminton rivalry: Saina Nehwal versus PV Sindhu
However, Saina took charge against the in-form Sindhu to win her second Commonwealth title in straight sets 21-18, 23-21.
London Olympics (2012)
India never won an Olympic medal in badminton until the London 2012 Olympics. Saina scripted history by becoming the first Indian badminton player (male/female) to win an Olympic medal. This was surely a significant milestone for Indian Badminton.
Fourth-seeded at the tournament, Saina spearheaded the semi-finals before losing to China’s Wang Yihan, the eventual silver medalist. Later, Saina secured a bronze medal after China’s top seed, Wang Xin retired from the match post-injury.
China Open (Gold): 2014
China has been a dominant force in World Badminton. Historically, Saina clinched the women’s singles title of the $7,00,000 China Open and became the first Indian player to win the title. The Olympic bronze medallist had to bank on her experience to face the challenge of Akane Yamaguchi. In a tight two-game encounter, Saina prevailed over 17-year-old Yamaguchi 21-12 22-20 in the finals which lasted for 42 minutes.
She was in incredible form for this tournament after clinching the India Open and Australia Open titles before the China Open. This feat was followed by Srikanth Kidambi winning the men’s singles title by defeating Chinese legend, Lin Dan.