Saina makes 2010 a year to remember for Indian badminton

Saina continued her giant strides, breaking through the `Great Wall of China` with five international titles to become the world number two as Indian badminton rode on her success to rise in profile in a highly successful 2010.

New Delhi: Saina Nehwal continued her giant
strides, breaking through the `Great Wall of China` with five
international titles to become the world number two as Indian
badminton rode on her success to rise in profile in a highly
successful 2010.

After a highly promising last year during which she won
the Indonesian title, Saina proved once again why she is the
brightest star in Indian badminton as she went several steps
ahead this year.

The Hyderabadi became the first female Indian shuttler to
win three back-to-back titles when she clinched the Indian
Open Grand Prix Gold, Singapore Super Series and defended the
Indonesian Open in June.

But the icing on the cake came in October when the
20-year-old won the Commonwealth Games gold medal at the Sri
Fort Complex.

She didn`t stop there and her insatiable hunger for
success guided her to a third Super Series title when she won
the Hong Kong Open last month to wipe out the disappointment
of losing in the quarterfinals of the Asian Games.

Twin honours at the national level added to her aura as
she was conferred with the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna and Padma
Shri awards.

"It has been nothing less than a dream year for me
because even though I played in just five super series events
out of 12 Super Series, I won three of them and it is a great
feeling. Commonwealth Games and Asian Games were important
this year and I won the gold in Delhi, which was also a
memorable moment. I also received the Padma Shri and
Khel Ratna award. What else can a player wish for," said

National coach and her mentor Pullela Gopichand also said
that it has been a remarkable year for Saina.

"I has been a remarkable year for Saina. She has been
playing like a champion and won back-to-back tournaments. She
missed many Super Series events or else she could have been
number one by this year end but that is not the priority,
winning more tournaments is. Saina has been handling pressure
pretty well," Gopichand said.

If Saina continued her giant strides, this year had a new
star in men`s singles. Even as established names such as
Chetan Anand and Arvind Bhat struggled with injuries and poor
form, P Kashyap increased his fan base when he won the
Commonwealth Games bronze medal.

The lad from Andhra Pradesh, who had finished runners-up
in the Spanish Open and Open Volant d`Or last year, notched up
some brilliant wins, defeating Indonesian Mohammad Hashim and
England`s Rajiv Ouseph during his campaign at the Sri Fort

He was consistent on the international scene as well and
his exploits helped him end the year at a creditable 23rd in
the international rankings.

Ajay Jayaram also brought laurels to the nation, when he
won his maiden international title -- the Smiling Fish
International Championship in Thailand -- before adding
another one at at the Yonex Czech International held in Brno.

Anand Pawar also made his return to the scene after being
laid low by a back injury, by winning the Scottish Open.

The women`s doubles pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini
Ponnappa also had a resurgence of sorts. The combo, who
started playing together only last year, won an unexpected
gold medal in the Commonwealth Games.

If the seniors were making India proud on the
international stage, the juniors were not far behind as rising
shuttler H S Prannoy of Kerala won a silver medal for the
country at the Youth Olympics Games in Singapore.

PV Siddhu also won all the tournaments she played in
recent times, including the junior national title, following
in the footsteps of Saina.

With their new found confidence, Indian shuttlers also
did well in the team events, winning the Commonwealth Games
silver medal in the mixed team event, which was another first
for the country.

Earlier in the year, the men`s and women`s team reached
the quarterfinals of the Thomas and Uber Cup, considered to be
the world championship of team event which occurs every two

On the downside, the year proved to be low key for Chetan
Anand and Bhat as none of them could win any international

Chetan, who started the year inside the top 20 as India`s
top ranked player in world rankings, finished at 28th after a
series ordinary performances at the international stage.

A knee injury in the run up to the World Championships
gave him difficult times but Chetan made a return at the Delhi
CWG but after losing to compatriot Kashyap in the bronze medal
play off, he missed the Asian Games.

But his woes continued as he crashed out early from the
season-ending Indian Open Grand Prix in Hyderabad.

Arvind also endured poor form and had nothing much to
show as he finished the year at 48th in the world rankings.

India`s growing stature in world badminton was a result
of the relentless hard work done by the coaches and support
staff and Saina and Kashyap acknowledged their Contribution.

"Gopi (Pullela Gopichand) and Bhaskar Babu sir have
worked hard with me and I would like to thank them for their
efforts and guidance and also each person who have contributed
to the success of Indian badminton," Saina said.

Overall the year turned out to be a good one for Indian
badminton as it consolidated its position at the world stage
and gave enough hope of a bright future for the country next
year too.