Saina creates history, becomes World No 1

Saina creates history, becomes World No 1

Saina Nehwal created history on Saturday after being assured of the No 1 spot in women’s badminton, the first Indian woman to occupy the top spot.

Saina achieved the feat at the India Open here, where she reached the final with a win over Yui Hashimoto in the semifinal. The ranking will become official when the new list is released on Thursday.

The legendary Prakash Padukone, who watched Saina from the stands on Saturday, was the top player in the men’s singles in the 1980s when he won the Swedish, the Danish and the prestigious All England Championship. However, there were no official rankings at that time.

“I still can’t believe what I have achieved. Not until I see my name next Thursday,” gushed Saina, who will be first non-Chinese player to become No 1 since Denmark’s Tine Baun in 2010. On her way to the top, Saina dislodged China’s Li Xuerui. Spain’s Carolina Marin will take the second place after her loss in the semifinals.

The race to the No 1 spot had gathered momentum after the phenomenal rise of Carolina and the resurgence of Saina under her new coach Vimal Kumar, since the 2014 Asian Games in September. 

Injuries to top Chinese players, especially Li Xuerui, further propelled the two closer to the coveted spot.

The fact that both reached the final of the All England Championship, where Carolina beat Saina, meant a new No 1 would occupy the throne at the India Open. The competition intensified when both Saina and Carolina reached the semifinals here.

Carolina then lost in a nail-biting contest to Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand and Saina was assured of the World No 1 status even before she could play the semifinals.

“Obviously, I am happy. For a year and a half, we have seen Li Xuerui’s name on top. Now it will be mine. I feel I can celebrate a bit today,” said Saina.

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