New Delhi: Saina Nehwal broke the Chinese
stranglehold, while the mixed doubles pair of Jwala Gutta and
V Diju cracked the top-10 chart as Indian badminton rose in
stature in a reasonably successful 2009.
After a highly promising last year where she won the
Chinese Taipei title, Saina proved once again why she is the
brightest star in Indian badminton as she went a step ahead
The Hyderabadi became the first Indian to win a Super
series title when she clinched the Indonesian Open in June.
The hard work of the past two years paid off and the
shuttler was conferred the coveted Arjuna Award in August,
where her mentor Pullela Gopichand received the Dronacharya
If Saina broke the Chinese dominance this year, Jwala and
Diju made India a force to reckon with in mixed doubles.
The duo became the first Indian pair to reach the
quarterfinals of the World championship in Hyderabad but it
was the victory at Chinese Taipei Grand Prix Gold in August
which was the highlight of a dream year as it catapulted them
to the top-10 bracket.
The year 2009 also saw Arvind Bhat break the title jinx
at the National championship after four abortive finals, when
he beat P Kashyap in the summit clash in Indore.
Saina, the first Indian shuttler to make the Olympic
quarterfinals in Beijing last year, continued her
giant-killing run this year too as the Indian taught a thing
or two to the Chinese in their own game.
The 19-year-old made a steady start to the season and
reached the quarterfinals of the Malaysia Super Series, Swiss
Open and India Open in Hyderabad in March and also helped
India reach Group 2 of the Sudirman Cup in May.
The Singapore Open in June again saw the Indian ace reach
the last eight where she lost to Wang Lin but a gritty Saina
avenged her loss in Indonesia by beating the Chinese in the
finals to clinch her maiden super series title.
She also reached the quarters of Malaysian Open but a
bout of mild chicken pox just two weeks before the World
Championship threatened her chances of participating in the
tournament which was being held in India for the first time.
But she recovered in time to not only take part in the
event but also become the first Indian woman to reach the
quarterfinals where she lost to old rival Wang Lin.
However, a miscommunication between the Indian officials
and the Badminton World Federation regarding sending of
entries saw Saina miss the China Masters, which was just
after the World Championships.
When she eventually returned to the circuit, the Indian
made it to the quarters of back-to-back super series events in
Denmark and French to reach a career-best ranking of world
number six in October.
With the year nearing end, Saina participated in the
World Super Series Masters Final and reached the semifinals of
the prestigious event, an encore of her performance last year.
As Saina cemented her place in the top league in singles,
the seven-time national doubles champion Jwala Gutta and her
partner V Diju made quite a splash in mixed doubles.
For Jwala and Diju, it was a year in which they moved
from strength to strength and consolidated their position on
the global map.
The duo created a flutter when they made it to the finals
of the Indian Open in Hyderabad in March and signed off the
year on a high reaching the finals of the season-ending World
Super Series Masters Finals.
The men`s doubles pair of Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas
also notched up up some impressive triumphs in the
international arena when the duo clinched the New Zealand
Grand Prix in July and the Bitburger Open in October.
They also reached the finals of the Australian Open Grand
Prix in July.
On the downside, this year proved to be a low key one for
the men`s singles players like Chetan Anand and Arvind Bhat as
none of them could win any international tournaments, only
managing odd quarterfinal appearances.
P Kashyap, though, had something to sheer about as he
managed to finish runners-up in the Spanish Open and Open
Volant d`Or in May but his form too dipped after that.
The most disappointing of all was India`s number one
shuttler Chetan for whom it was a forgettable year as fitness
and poor form kept haunting him all through. It wasn`t any
better for Arvind either.
Apart from winning his maiden national title this year,
Arvind had nothing much to show and the only bright moment for
him was reaching a career-best 21st after making the quarters
of Macau Open.
Olympian Anup Sridhar also struggled with injuries and
fitness issues and his only high point was beating the then
world number two Peter Gade of Denmark to reach the quarters
of Singapore Super Series.
Although the men disappointed, overall the year turned
out to be a good one for India as it consolidated its position
at the world stage and with the country hosting the
Commonwealth Games next year, it would be another opportunity
for the shuttlers to shine bright next year too.