Saina, Jwala-Diju make it a year to remember for badminton
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Last Updated: Friday, December 18, 2009, 11:59
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 this year.

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 Award.

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.


First Published: Friday, December 18, 2009, 11:59

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