Saina Nehwal’s slide and P V Sindhu’s rise were the tales of Indian badminton this year. Saina was on a high in 2012, winning an Olympic bronze but a series of fitness issues and inconsistent form pegged her back.
The 23-year-old failed to defend her crowns in Indonesia, Denmark, Switzerland and Thailand and ended the year without a single title and slipped to world number six in the BWF rankings from a high of two.
Saina’s best finishes were at the Malaysia Super Series Premier and All England Super Series Premier where she reached semifinals. In contrast, Sindhu hogged the limelight by becoming the first Indian woman to win a singles medal at the World Championship in Guangzhou, China, besides winning two Grand Prix gold titles in the year.
The 18-year-old shuttler won the Malaysia Grand Prix Gold and Macau Open Grand Prix Gold in April and December respectively but her most important success came at the World Championships. She reached the semifinals before bowing to Ratchanok Inthinon of Thailand, the eventual champion.
In the men’s event, Parupalli Kashyap became only the second Indian shuttler after Pullela Gopichand to break into the top-10. The 26-year-old Hyderabadi became the World No 9 in January and then reached as high as world No 6, before falling out of the top 10. K Srikanth too made his mark, winning the Thailand Open Grand Prix Gold and ended the year by claiming the National crown.
The launch of the Indian Badminon League in August was a positive development in the season, even though Chinese players failed to turn up. A clutch of international stars made their presence with Hyderabad Hotshots, led by Saina, lifting the inaugural title, defeating the Lucknow-based Awadhe Warriors in the final.
The year had its share of controversies, with Jwala Gutta figuring prominently. During the IBL, the base price of Jwala and Ashwini Ponnappa was reduced on the auction day, creating a furore. Another controversy suffered when Jwala’s Delhi Smashers threatened to pull out against Banga Beats over the last-minute replacement of a player.
The Badminton Association of India’s disciplinary committee recommended a life ban on Jwala over the issue before the Delhi High Court intervened on the matter. An amicable settlement was on the cards as the year ended.
With more international games coming up in 2014, India would hope to have Saina back and firing even as Sindhu steps it up.