Saina takes it a notch higher

Badminton

Saina takes it a notch higher

Shuttling along: Saina Nehwal took another step forward in her journey with a Super Series triumph.

With a string of good performances in 2009, Indian shuttlers clearly stated that they are making the grade as serious contenders in the badminton world. Saina Nehwal’s Super Series triumph and her entry into the elite group of top eight were indeed the highlights of the Indian badminton season.

Saina, who became the first Indian woman shuttler to reach the quarterfinal stage at the Olympics in 2008, again achieved a first for an Indian shuttler when she lifted the Indonesian Super Series title in June, a feat acknowledged by the player herself as a career highlight.

“I won my maiden Super Series title, received the Arjuna award and broke into the top 10 ranking in the world. So I am happy with my performances this year. But couple more titles might have given me more satisfaction,” said Saina, who beat Chinese Lin Wang in the final in Indonesia.

The Arjuna award came as a  mark of recognition but the Hyderabadi, however, could not sustain the winning momentum she found in Indonesia, failing to bring home another crown.

Saina’s World Championship dream hit the road block when she was afflicted with chickenpox just before the Hyderabad bash. She did her best to reach the quarterfinal stage in front of her home crowd before being beaten by second seed Wang Lin of China. “My aim was to play in the final in Hyderabad. I think I would have made it but for the illness,” said Saina, who is currently ranked No 8.
A couple of semifinal and quarterfinal entries in major tournaments helped her to stay in the top ten, gaining her a place in the Malaysian Super Series Masters in Johor Bahru. She reached the semifinal stage of the season-ending meet befor going down to Juliane Schenk of Germany.

It was also a memorable year for the mixed doubles pair V Diju and Jwala Gutta. Besides clinching the Chinese Taipei Gold Grand Prix, the duo made it to the Super Series Masters final. The Kerala-Hyderabad combine made remarkable progress to climb to seventh in world rankings.

Apart from Saina and Diju-Jwala duo, none of the prominent names could win a title abroad this season. Chetan Anand, who was No 15 last year, slipped two places in world rankings. Apart from the Tata Open title on the national circuit, the 29-year-old’s best show was the quarterfinal entries in the Yonex German Open and Macau Open.

Anup Sridhar had a disappointing year with the Bangalorean slipping to No 40. The 26-year-old, whose progress last season was halted by injuries, could manage only a last eight berth in the Singapore Open Super Series. Off the court, Anup married Priyanka Shetty.

Ranked 29th in the world, National champion Aravind Bhat’s best came at the Hong Kong Open and China Open Super Series where he reached the quarterfinals. P Kashyap improved upon his rankings to 32 with twin pre-quarterfinal appearances at the Japan Open and Chinese Taipei GP.
The country’s junior shuttlers also showed signs of progress, with the likes of Guru Sai Dutt, Aditya R Prakash, Sikki Reddy and Neha Pandit revealing glimpses of their potential at various events.  But Saina in top form certainly will be the flavour of 2010 which includes the Commonweath Games, the Asian Championship and the World Championship.

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