Saina Nehwal

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Saina Nehwal: career till June 2014 From: The Times of India

This is a collection of articles archived for the excellence of their content.

Contents

A profile

The Times of India, Aug 17, 2015

Hijam Raju Singh

Super Saina leads India's rise in badminton

For a country which produces world-class athletes miserly, something revolutionary is happening in the world of badminton with world No.2 Saina Nehwal leading the Indian charge. There is a steep jump in the number of Indians competing at the highest level of the sport in the last few years, with currently three men and two women in the top 15 of the respective world rankings.

India had players like Prakash Padukone and Pullela Gopichand, current national chief coach, in the past but they were exceptions at best. Padukone won India's first World Championships medal, a bronze, way back in 1983 after winning the prestigious All England Championships in 1980, whereas Gopichand won the All England title in 2001. Padukone even rose to the pinnacle of the sport when he was ranked No. 1 in the world badminton rankings in 1980.

But the real rise of Indian badminton in recent years can be credited to the emergence of Saina seven years ago, when as an 18-year-old she started making waves by giving tough competitions to the Chinese shuttlers who literally ruled the sport with an iron grip.

Saina brought back memories of Padukone and Gopichand when she started winning Grand Prixs and Super Series tournaments, of which she won now 16. She came into prominence in 2008 when she reached the quarter-finals at the Beijing Olympics, a first by an Indian in the sport. Earlier that year Sania also became the first to win the BWF World Junior title. Saina then became the first to win a Super Series title when she triumphed at the Indonesian Open in 2009 and also reached the quarter-finals of the World Badminton Championships in her maiden attempt that year. Saina continued her rise in 2010 as she became the first Indian women to reach the All England semi-finals en route to reaching a career high world No. 2 in July. She then reached the World Championships quarter-finals again and later in the year won gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi. Two years later, she made history by winning a bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics, another first by an Indian in badminton.

So far, 2015 has been a watershed year for the 25-year-old Indian youth icon as she rose to the top of the world rankings in April, thus becoming the first Indian woman to achieve the feat and second Indian after Padukone who reached there 35 years ago. Earlier in the year, she also became the first Indian woman to reach the final of the All England Championships where she lost to world champion Carolina Marin of Spain. Then in August, after reaching the World Championships quarter-finals five times before, Saina finally broke the medal drought as she stormed into the final in Jakarta. But defending champion Marin came out triumphant again in the summit clash.

Sindhu - India's other torchbearer

For a while there was only Saina, but a few years ago a lanky teenager burst into the limelight from the same Gopichand Academy. PV Sindhu made an immediate impact by winning a bronze medal at the world championships in 2013, which was even beyond Saina's grasp till this year, and established as a rising star by winning another bronze in 2014 - thus becoming India's first to win back-to-back medals at the World Championships.

Sindhu missed a hat-trick of medals as she lost in the quarter-final stage this year, but at 20 she has plenty of time to make amends. And with an Olympic year coming, the world No. 13 must be hoping to enter her name in the record book like Saina by winning a medal at Rio.

Personal life

2018: Saina weds Kashyap

Manne Ratnakar, Shuttle stars Saina, Kashyap tie the knot, December 15, 2018: The Times of India


By her own admission, shuttler Saina Nehwal played the ‘best match’ of her life as she exchanged wedding vows with Parupalli Kashyap at a simple ceremony. It was a closeddoor affair for the two star shuttlers with only family members and a few close friends in attendance. It was a registry marriage at Saina’s residence, which was followed by a small South Indian style ritual. It was Saina’s wish that the wedding be a low-key affair. The only other shuttler present at the wedding was RMV Gurusaidutt. Kidambi Srikanth and H S Prannoy were not in the city.

None of the coaches or players from the Pullela Gopichand Badminton Academy were invited. Chief coach of the Indian badminton team Gopichand, in whose academy Saina fell in love with Kashyap, wished the couple. “It’s a wonderful day for Saina and Kashyap. I am really happy for both of them. I wish them a long and prosperous life. What they have done for Indian badminton and Indian sport is amazing, I hope marriage brings them more luck,” said Gopichand, who is accompanying PV Sindhu and Sameer Verma at the BWF World Finals in China.

Saina tweeted the pictures of her wedding and captioned it 'Best match of my life??...#justmarried.' Saina’s father Harvir Singh told reporters at the venue that it was a strictly private gathering and photographers were barred.

2010-14

Saina Nehwal: Progress to the top;
Graphic courtesy: The Times of India

See graphic:

Saina Nehwal: Progress to the top

Nov 2014: China Open

For Saina, it is said & done Maxin Mathew The Times of India Nov 17 2014 Bengaluru:

Bengaluru: Defeating three Chinese players in three days on their own turf is an achievement that Saina Nehwal will treasure more than her commanding title-winning performance at the China Open in Fuzhou.

After a disappointing loss to Chinese world No. 2 Shixian Wang in the French Open quarterfinals in Oct 2014, U Vimal Kumar -her coach at the Karnataka Badminton Association here -had considered advising the 24-year-old to skip China Open and focus on the Hong Kong Open Superseries and Macau Open Grand Prix Gold. However, Saina's fierce determination to defeat her nemesis and win glory on their soil proved to be the game changer for her.

“I want to beat the Chinese in China,“ was what Saina told me,“ Vimal told The Times of India. “That was her thinking process. She was doing exceptionally well during practice and she needed to build her confidence after the French Open defeat.“

=2015

International rankings: Saina, World no. 1

On 2 April, 2015, Saina Nehwal became world number one after her India Open Grand Prix Gold triumph

A week later she dropped to the second place following her semifinal finish in the Malaysia Open Super Series.

She skipped the next week's Singapore Open Super Series but gained in the rankings after Xuerui also pulled out from the tournament, leading to loss of two positions in the women's singles chart.

On 16 April 2015 Saina regained the number one position in international rankings after China's Li Xuerui dropped a couple of rungs to third

21 May 2015 Saina Nehwal regained the top spot in the latest women's singles rankings released by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) .

The Hyderabadi pipped reigning Olympic champion Li Xuerui of China, who dropped to No.2. Saina had won two titles between Jan and May 2015 -- India Open Superseries and India Grand Prix Gold -- and also reached the final of the prestigious All England Open, which is a Superseries Premier event.

The details:

The Times of India Mar 29 2015

Saumyajit Basu

Saina Nehwal is now world No. 1

1st Indian woman at the top

After going through the grind for years, battling injuries and heartbreaks on the court along the way , Saina finally scaled the women's badminton summit the moment Carolina Marin of Spain lost her India Open semifinal at Siri Fort.

“When I joined the sport, I never thought of becoming world No. 1. It was only my mom's dream.. she would say , `Saina you have to get an Oly mpic medal for me'. That's it.Not world No. 1. But today ,I feel like oh my God, world No.1. Obviously it's huge.“ So overwhelmed was Saina that she struggled to express her emotions in words: “I still can't believe it. I would like to see my name on the rankings list...next Thursday .“ Wiping trickles of sweat from her brows and taking a sneak peek at her kit that has a small India flag and her name Saina stitched in gold letters, Saina tried to express her feelings after rushing into her maiden India Open final.

A few minutes ago she had completed the decimation of Yui Hashimoto in a new `smashing' game that she is perfecting these days at the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy in Bangalore. Former national champion Vimal Kumar is her new career chaperone and in just seven months, Saina has managed to achieve the top rank which Padukone did 35 years ago.

It would not be fair to measure Saina's achievement in just numbers as it means much more than that. What US is to the world economy , China is to world badminton ­ powerful, seemingly unbeatable and producing champions in a factory line. Saina dared to break that hegemony and succeeded.

Prakash introduced India to world badminton. Saina redefined the sport in the country and became the face of a revolution which has got the badminton world worried. She did this all alone.

Vimal Kumar recalled an incident when a sprightly 15-year-old's fierce determination caught his attention. An injury to Aparna Popat, India's No. 1 player, pushed Saina into the thick of things. She emerged victorious and India won a bronze in the mixed team event in 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games. “Her work ethic is absolutely commendable. She is a delight to work with,“ said Kumar.

“It's been a long journey . I've made so many sacrifices. I have shifted from Hyderabad to Bangalore just to beat the top players.

It turned out to be a good decision and I have become the world No .1 in such quick time. In between, I have won the China Open and Lucknow Open, reached the All England final and now I'm in the India Open final. Every player dreams of being here,“ said the champion fighter.

Assured of no. 1 rank, Saina storms into India Open Final; Srikanth sets up summit clash with Axelsen

The Times of India Mar 29 2015

Saumyajit Basu

For the first time since it attained Super Series status, India Open will witness two Indians in the title showdown. Following Saina Nehwal's historic rise to world No .1 and making it to the final in the process, Kidambi Srikanth too jumped into the fray .

Ladies and gentlemen, it will be a Super Sunday at the Siri Fort.

Flaunting a new-found aggression, Saina stomped her way past Japan's Yui Hashimoto 21-15, 21-11. In the past few editions of the event, Saina had to bite the bitter pill rather early. But on Saturday, she was breathing fire, hitting repeat smashes to force a whirlwind victory .

That she attained the world No. 1 rank before the start of match was known to the packed house. Every movement of her was cheered like crazy and Saina waved at the crowd after finishing off her opponent with disdain. She was actually waving her racket like a rapier and the shuttle zoomed like a short-range missile. Hashimoto had no answer.

One has to wait and see what Thailand's Ratchanok Intanon has in store for Saina when they meet in the final.

World No.4 Srikanth pulled off a smooth 2116, 21-13 win over Chinese qualifier Xue Song. “I tried to keep my attack perfect. For tomorrow (Sunday), I have to plan afresh,“ Srikanth said. He will be up against Denmark's sixth seed Viktor Axelsen, whom he had defeated earlier this month in Swiss Open final. Axelsen moved into the final after Tommy Sugiarto of Indonesia retired from their semifinal match after developing a back injury .

Carolina Marin is known as the comeback queen in the badminton circle. Saina got a taste of it in the All England final and on Saturday, the Spaniard almost pulled off another revival of sorts.

The first women's semifinal panned out as the best match of the Yonex Sunrise India Open as Marin raced to a lead and it looked like the game was under Spanish control. But Intanon, the youngest world champion, had other plans.

The 20-year old Thai girl launched a war of resistance that spiced up the contest between two contrasting styles, one representing the hard-hitting power-backed European trademark while the other bore the stamp of patience and long rallies.

Ratchanok fell down on a number of occasions but at the end of a marathon 1 hour 24 minute battle, she was the one left stand ing. Ratchanok won 21-19, 21-23, 22-30.

SEMIFINAL RESULTS

Women's Singles: Ratchanok Intanon [3](THA) bt Carolina Marin [2] (ESP) 21-19 21-23 22-20; Saina Nehwal [1] (IND) bt Yui Hashimoto (JPN) 21-15, 21 11; Men's singles: Viktor Axelsen [6](DEN)bt Tommy Sugiarto [8] 22-24 17-11 Retired ; K. Srikanth [2] (IND) bt Xue Song (CHN) 21 16 21-13.


`I have made so many sacrifices'

The Times of India Mar 29 2015

The feel-good factor is back. Indian sports fans who were feeling a little low after India's exit from the cricket World Cup have got a reason to celebrate: Saina Nehwal is world No. 1. After going through the grind for years, battling injuries and heartbreaks on the court along the way , Saina finally scaled the women's badminton summit the moment Carolina Marin of Spain lost her India Open semifinal at Siri Fort.

“When I joined the sport, I never thought of becoming world No. 1. It was only my mom's dream.. she would say , `Saina you have to get an Oly mpic medal for me'. That's it.Not world No. 1. But today ,I feel like oh my God, world No.1. Obviously it's huge.“ So overwhelmed was Saina that she struggled to express her emotions in words: “I still can't believe it. I would like to see my name on the rankings list”. Wiping trickles of sweat from her brows and taking a sneak peek at her kit that has a small India flag and her name Saina stitched in gold letters, Saina tried to express her feelings after rushing into her maiden India Open final.

A few minutes ago she had completed the decimation of Yui Hashimoto in a new `smashing' game that she is perfecting these days at the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy in Bangalore. Former national champion Vimal Kumar is her new career chaperone and in just seven months, Saina has managed to achieve the top rank which Padukone did 35 years ago.

It would not be fair to measure Saina's achievement in just numbers as it means much more than that. What US is to the world economy , China is to world badminton ­ powerful, seemingly unbeatable and producing champions in a factory line. Saina dared to break that hegemony and succeeded.

Prakash introduced India to world badminton. Saina redefined the sport in the country and became the face of a revolution which has got the badminton world worried. She did this all alone.

Vimal Kumar recalled an incident when a sprightly 15-year-old's fierce determination caught his attention. An injury to Aparna Popat, India's No. 1 player, pushed Saina into the thick of things. She emerged victorious and India won a bronze in the mixed team event in 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games. “Her work ethic is absolutely commendable. She is a delight to work with,“ said Kumar.

“It's been a long journey . I've made so many sacrifices. I have shifted from Hyderabad to Bangalore just to beat the top players.

It turned out to be a good decision and I have become the world No .1 in such quick time. In between, I have won the China Open and Lucknow Open, reached the All England final and now I'm in the India Open final. Every player dreams of being here,“ said the champion fighter.

2014: Loss of confidence

The Times of India, Aug 19 2015

Manne Ratnakar

Saina thought of quitting

From agony to ecstasy ­ this is the story of Saina Nehwal in the last 12 months. At this time last year, she returned to the city in despair, refusing to believe critics who had declared her career to be more or less over. From then to now, Saina's bag of titles has swelled and includes top notch tournaments like the China Open. She also reached the final of All England Championships before creating history with a silver at the World Championships.

On September 1 last year, after failing to get past the quarterfinals of the World championship in five attempts, Saina returned home determined to move out of Hyderabad and train under Vimal Kumar in Bangalore. Many thought her career was finished and Saina too felt that she should quit badminton. But the fighter in her encouraged her to make one last bid.That move paid rich dividends and catapulted her to the top of the world.

“Last year at the same point of time I was thinking of quitting badminton as my game was going nowhere. I was losing to a lot of players in the first few rounds.But now I have so many titles with me, so many firsts -I got the world No. 1 ranking and reached the final of the World Championships. It is really a dream come true. I would like to thank Vimal sir for working so hard with me. I would like to thank my parents and also Olympic Gold Quest for giving so much support to me. It is difficult to stay away from home and I had never done that. But I thank Vimal sir for looking after me so well and giving me such good training.

“It is very disappointing for me, my fans and my coaches that I lost in the final.But I am trying my level best. If my coach and I found a way to reach the final, I am sure we can find the way to win major tournaments,“ said Saina, who will regain the No. 1 ranking this Thursday .

On the changes that Vimal has brought to her game, Saina said, “I feel I am a lot quicker now and playing fast paced rallies... I am attacking much better. Overall, there is a lot of improvement from last year. Even my fitness has improved a lot. I am feeling much better physically, much fitter. When you get personal attention, naturally you are going to improve because the whole attention is on you. “He is working on those areas in which I am weak. Every time I come back from a tournament, I get some training which is always for improvement. Now I am world No. 2 and need someone who is focusing completely on me. Vimal sir is doing that really well.“

After successfully negating the dominance of the Chinese, Saina believes her cross border rivals will come back strong.“Chinese are still the best. You can never underestimate them and I will never do that. Though Wang Yihan lost to me she gave me a very tough fight. They don't leave you till the last point. In the future the Chinese are going to be very tough for all of us. Really good to see that many players from other countries are doing extremely well. Players from other countries will take inspiration from (Carolina) Marin, me, Tai Tzu Ying and (Intanon) Ratchanok. It's good for badminton, which will get more popular in other countries.“

2015

Strength led her to "World number 1"

The Times of India, Mar 29 2015

Manne Ratnakar

Hundred and forty two years after the first shuttle crossed the net in Poona, Saina Nehwal became the first Indian woman on top of the world rankings. The 25-year-old is also the only Indian to achieve the No.1 rank after the modern ranking system was introduced in the late 90s. Saina achieved this phenomenal feat after world champion Carolina Marin, the other contender for the top spot, lost in the India Open semifinals, paving the way for Saina's accession to the throne when the rankings will be released on Thursday .

The Olympic bronze medallist came close to this when she became No. 2 in July, 2010. But injuries and dip in form pushed her down the ladder before she fought her way back to the top by winning the Australian Open, China Open and the Indian Grand Prix Gold in the last 10 months. Coupled with her splendid show was the stunning drop in form of top Chinese shuttlers like Olympic champion Li Xuerui, former world champion Wang Yihan and two-time All England champion Wang Shixian, which made things easier for Saina. These three top players are still injuries.

After winning a Grand Prix Gold tournament in the Phillippines in 2006, Saina kept getting better. She went on o eclipse the greats of Indian badminton like Prakash Padukone and her ong time coach Pullela Gopichand by winning close to 20 international titles.

With sheer commitment, hard work and never-say-die attitude she stretched to make a mark in world badminton. Very few were surprised when she won India's first badminton medal at the Olympics.

But nothing came easy for Saina.As a girl she travelled about 30 km everyday on her father's scooter for training. She trained harder than many boys. Though beaten squarely by the Chinese earlier in her career, she never lost hope and finally got the better of them. After her first victory in 2006, she had to wait for two years to win another international title. But the epochmaking moment came in 2010 when she stunned the world with hat-trick of titles ­ India Open, Singapore Open and Indonesia Open.

Then came the injuries. She won only the Swiss Open in 2011 and that indeed was a bad sign in the run-up to the Olympics. She cried and pleaded with Gopichand to do something as nothing seemed to be working. But just before the London Olympics she showed signs of recovery and won the bronze. She went on win the Denmark Open before injuries slowed her again.

She did not win a single title in 2013 and though she won the India Open and Australian Open in 2014 she did not look convincing. Many wrote her off after she decided to split with Gopichand in September, 2014. But she rose like a Phoenix by winning the China Open in Nov and reaching the final at the All England earlier.

World championship

World Championship: reaches semi-finals

The Times of India, Aug 15 2015

Manne Ratnakar

Finally assures herself of a World’s medal by reaching Semifinals; Sindhu, Jwala-Ashwini miss out

Saina Nehwal, Indian badminton's talismanic star who has for years waged a valiant battle against the domination of Chinese women shuttlers with admirable success, threw her racquet high in the air and jumped in delight as she celebrated the end of a long-standing jinx inside a packed hall in Jakarta. It was a moment she had been craving for years; it was a huge hurdle crossed on the road on which she had slipped and fallen time and again in her bid to win that elusive World Championship medal; it was the breaking of a mental barrier which had given her sleepless nights. It must have been extra special for Saina as it came with the conquest of her nemesis, China's Wang Yihan.

In a nerve-jangling one hour, 12 minute fight, Saina triumphed 21-15, 19-21, 21-19 to make her maiden entry into the Worlds semifinals, which assured her of at least a bronze medal.In five earlier attempts, Saina had never crossed the quarters.

The Indian champ, ranked No. 2 in the world, started in an emphatic fashion and clinched the first game against the world No. 6 Chinese without breaking much sweat. However, that was where the fight truly began.She allowed Yihan to wipe out a big deficit and win the second game. In the third game too, Saina did a lot of catching-up and was even trailing at 16-18. But it was here that Saina came up with some breathtaking strokes to move ahead of Yihan with a threepoint burst and then went for the kill.

The Indian ace, who has won close to 20 international titles including the Olympics bronze, was always unlucky when it came to the World championship. She was struck down by chicken pox once, stomach bug later ­ the 24-year-old was always laid low by some off-court problems. Even before the Worlds she was suffering from shoulder niggle but she did not allow that to affect her game. The Indian faced Lindaweni Fanetri of Indonesia in the semifinals.

World Championship: reaches finals

Saina Nehwal head to head versus Marin; Graphic courtesy: The Times of India, August 16, 2015

The Times of India, Aug 16 2015

Manne Ratnakar

First Indian on threshold of World Championship title

Saina Nehwal crossed another spectacular milestone when she became the first Indian to reach the final of the World Badminton Championships. A day after delivering the sucker punch to the Chinese when she beat Wang Yi han, Saina outclassed local girl Lindaweni Fanetri in straight games 21-17, 21-17 to set up the gold medal match against defending champion and world No. 1 Carolina Marin of Spain.

Adding a new chapters is nothing new for Saina but her amazing feat is extraordinary . No Indian had managed to reach the summit stage since the World Championships started in 1977. The legendary Prakash Padukone was the first Indian to win a medal (a bronze) in 1983, Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa bagged a women's doubles bronze in 2011 and PV Sindhu clinched back-to-back bronze medals in 2013 and 2014. Saina has already gone beyond them and can even win the gold medal on Sunday .

Playing like a champion, Saina hardly broke sweat in her 55-minute clash against the lowerranked Fanetri. Jakarta is a favourite hunting ground for Saina. She has won three Indonesian Open titles here and such is the bonding that Saina has with Jakarta that she once said that she was more popular in Indonesia than in India. The Indian found little support from the partisan fans who were backing their local star against the adopted Indian ace. Saina, however, was unfazed by all that.

World Championship: loses in finals

The Times of India, Aug 17, 2015

Defensive Nehwal settles for Silver after losing final in straight games

A day after creating history, Saina Nehwal faltered at the final hurdle, losing the title clash to Carolina Marin of Spain 1621, 19-21 in the BWF World Badminton Championships in Jakarta on Sunday. Saina thus became the first Indian to collect the silver at the prestigious event. It looked like the Indian was weighed down by the expectations of a billion people as she made some uncharacteristic mistakes like net faults and poor serves.Contrary to her aggressive style, Saina also looked defensive. How ever, a poor line judgement at 18-18 in the second game turned out to be the costliest error for Saina. But despite the loss, Saina is set to become No.1 when the rankings are announced next Thursday.

November 2015: Reaches final of China Open

The Times of India, Nov 16 2015

SuhasNayse

Saina fails to clear final hurdle

SainaNehwal's impressive run in a bid to defend her crown was cut short by Li Xuerui in the final of the China Open Super Se ries Premier at Fuzhou.

After a memorable week in which Saina raised the expectations with an inspired performance en route to reaching the summit clash, the top seeded Indian failed to overcome the stiff challenge from Xuerui. The reigning Olympic champion registered a fluent 21-12, 21-15 victory to shatter the hopes of Saina. Before the final, the odds were completely against the defending champion when she en against the defending champion when she entered the court. The world No. 2 Saina was playing against a top class Chinese player in her own den. The previous head-to-head (2-9) record was also against her. Despite all those obstacles, one expected Saina to turn the tables this time around particularly after her spectacular win over Wang Yihan in the semifinal on Saturday . However, Xuerui proved too tough a customer to crack under home expectations. The sixth seeded Chinese played a near-perfect game to deny Saina her second successive China Open title.“I started well, but I wasn't able to connect the shuttle, it was very strange,“Saina told reporters after her loss. “Many of my shots went out, and she was anticipating everything. I think I was in a hurry to finish off points. She was judging my pace well and was able to pick out my shots at the net. I should've been more patient,“ the 25-year-old said.

2015: BWF World Super Series, beats Marin, loses to Tai

The Times of India, Dec 12 2015

SuhasNayse

Tai ends `drained' Saina's campaign

After raising the hopes with a stunning victory over [world no.1] Carolina Marin on Thursday ,SainaNehwal failed to repeat her dazzling performance on Friday and crashed out of the BWF World Super Series Finals. Anticipating another brilliant show from Saina, the Hamdan Sports Complex was packed to the brim but world No. 5 and last year's champion Tai Tzu Ying gate crashed the party as she rallied back strongly to beat Saina 16-21, 21-18, 21-14 in 51 minutes.

2016

No.3 women’s badminton earner in world

The Times of India, Jun 17, 2016  Despite winning only one of the six Super Series titles so far in 2016, Saina Nehwal is No.3 in the list of top earners for women bad minton play ers in 2016. Chinese Ta ipei's Tai Tzu Ying leads the pack with a prize money of $102,675 while Saina has pocketed $77,275. Thailand's Ratchanok Intanon, whose fantastic show this year included three straight Super Series victories, claimed a handsome $97,800.

Tai, who is Saina's most feared opponent having beaten the Indian the last six times, catapulted to the top as she won the $950,000 Indonesia Open, which offers the second highest prize money for players. It fetches the singles champion $67,500.

Australian Super Series

Ace Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal produced a dominating performance to lift her second title of the season, winning the $750,000 Star Australian Super Series after beating Spain's Carolina Marin in the summit clash. In Pics: Saina Nehwal wins Australian Open

The sixth seeded Indian, who had won the India Open Grand Prix Gold earlier this year, prevailed 21-18, 21-11 in a 43-minute contest which left her richer by $56,000.

The 24-year-old Saina, who enjoyed a 1-0 head-to-head record against Marin going into Sunday's match, logged the first point and displayed some deft net play against her rival, stroking in some delectably timed volleys to take a 5-2 lead in the opening game.

But the 21-year-old Marin was not the one to give up easily and showed just why she is considered one of the most feisty players on the circuit. She narrowed the gap to 6-8 but seemed distinctly out of her comfort zone every time Saina dragged her towards the net. Also, Marin didn't help her cause by committing a service error to gift an easy point to Saina, who went into the interval leading 11-7 after an intriguing rally which ended with the Spaniard smashing the shuttle wide. Marin raised her game and the decibel levels after the break but Saina was quick to counter-attack and returned her rival's attempted smashes with quiet intensity. In between, Marin played some fine strokes but they never came consistently enough as Saina made it 17-12. Marin's dogged determination was there to be seen in every point she played for but that alone was never going to be enough to upstage a composed Saina.

The Indian, who didn't seem affected at all by Marin's aggressive outpouring of emotions after every claimed point, sealed the opening game 21-18 after her world number 11 rival smashed one into the net 23 minutes into the match. In the second game, Marin's determination helped her take a 3-1 lead to start with but it was not too long before Saina came back into the fray, this time on the back of some well-placed strokes from the baseline. Perhaps taking a cue from Marin, Saina too let some emotion show as she clenched her fist and shouted 'come on' after every clinched point. But one of her screams came about in the middle of a rally, prompting Marin to complain to the chair umpire, who merely asked her to continue.

The distraction didn't do any good to Marin as Saina raced to a 11-4 lead against the Spaniard, who looked to be in disarray. After the interval, Saina kept up the pressure, regularly inducing errors from Marin, who struggled to maintain the intensity she displayed in the opening game.

Dominating the proceedings, Saina produced some of her trademark smashes to further demoralise her rival, whose shoulders had dropped by that stage.

But there was to be some moments of drama before the win came about. Leading 19-9, Saina challenged a line call that went against her but replays showed that the shuttle had in fact landed wide. The Indian made another mistake while playing the very next point as she buried an attempted smash into the net.

But Saina made amends quite quickly and clinched the title after Marin lobbed a shuttle wide.

2016, an analysis

The Times of IndiaDec 25 2016


For some Indian sportswomen, things did not go the way they would have wished...

Starting the year as India's premier shuttler, Saina was expected to better her bronze medal finish at the London Games in 2012, only for her campaign to end in the second round against Ukraine's Maria Ulitina.

The nation found a new hero in PV Sindhu, who went on to win silver, only for traces of the duo's personal rivalry cropping up as the former world No. 1 posted a picture on social media as “evidence“ of her ongoing medical treatment on the same day. Thereafter, as Sindhu rejoiced in the inevitable stardom and a host of lucrative media deals, Saina's time on the injury table mounted in direct proportion.

2017

Wins Malaysia Masters Grand Prix

Suhas Nayse, Saina overcomes Thai teenager for title, Jan 23 2017 : The Times of India


Saina Nehwal lived up to her top billing to emerge champion in the Malaysia Masters Grand Prix Gold Badminton tournament at Sibu Indoor Stadium, Sarawak, Malaysia.

In a hard-fought summit clash, Saina has to stretch herself fully to halt the giant-killing run of Pornpawee Chochuwong of Thailand to grab the much-needed title. Although, Saina won in straight games at 22-20, 22-20, she was pushed to the limit by the unseeded Thai girl.

2018

Loses Indonesia Masters final to Tai Tzu Ying

Suhas Nayse, Tzu again proves Saina’s nemesis, January 29, 2018: The Times of India

An improved fitness level and never say die attitude helped Saina Nehwal reach final but she could not cross the lasthurdle againstTai Tzu Ying in thesummitclashof theIndonesia Masters World Tour Super 500 badminton tournament at Jakarta.

After knocking out higher-ranked opponents including second seed PV Sindhu and fourthseedRatchanokIntanon in the earlier rounds in straight games, Saina failed to risetotheoccasion and succumbedtotop seed.

The world No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei shattered the hopes of Saina with a clinical 21-9, 21-13 win in 27 minutes. The unseeded Saina’s bidtocapture firsttitlein the last twelve months was cut short by in-form Tai, who registered seventh successive victory against the 27-yearold Indian. Tai has now improved her head-to-head record 9-5 and looking unstoppable at the moment.

The 23-year-old Tai was the hotfavouritetowin thetitle and shelivedup toher reputation to bag yet another major crown. Famous on the circuit for her spectacular agility and deceptive returns, Tai was also benifitted by several unforced errors commited by Saina, who seemed to have not recovered well after some tough matches in thelastfew days.

It was a one-way traffic for Tai Tzu in the first game. She jumped to a 10-2 lead early on and maintained it throughout the game. When the score was reading 12-7 in favour of Tai, there was a long rally of 43 shots but it ended with Saina hitting out. After that Saina tried her best but she could not stop Tai wrapping up the first game at 9.

In the next game, world No. 12 Saina put up a better show and foughthard for every point. Saina, who iscoming backfrom an ankle injury at Jakarta, tried to slow down the pace of the game but could not handle Tai’s difficult returns and sharp drops. London Olympics bronze medallistsaved a couple of match points but Tai did not make any mistake on the third toclinchthecrown.

Saina was pleased to play her first final in a year but admitted she could have done better.

“I played finals after one year gap. I would like to thank Gopi Sir and the team for the support. I need to work even harder. Happy to be on the podium but have to learn from this match and be ready for the next tournament which is India open in Delhi next week,” said Saina.

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