How Saina Nehwal scaled to the Number 1 spot

Her hunger for training, mental strength and work ethics have led Nehwal to the No 1 ranking. The way she is going, she will end up winning everything there is to win, writes Sanjay Sharma

Sanjay SharmaNew Delhi: Saina Nehwal made India proud once again by realising her dream of attaining the World No 1 one ranking. This is a huge achievement, even though it comes by a bit of default as Carolina Marin, the reigning World champ and All England champion crashed out in the semi-final against Ratchanok Intanon in the India Open Super Series at New Delhi yesterday.

As a result of Marin’s defeat, Saina was assured of being the world’s highest-ranked player even before she stepped on the court for her match against Yui Hashimoto, which the Indian won with consummate ease. Saina will now take on Ratchanok in the final. At present, Saina is arguably the best female athlete produced by the nation.

India must thank her parents Usha Rani and Harvir Singh Nehwal for standing like a rock behind her quest to attain legendry status.

Winning international titles from the age of 17 till today, Saina has found no mountain in the game high enough to climb. It seems that she creates history every second week.

Saina Nehwal waves to the crowd after beating Yui Hashimoto in New Delhi on Saturday. PIC/PTI
Saina Nehwal waves to the crowd after beating Yui Hashimoto in New Delhi on Saturday. PIC/PTI

Saina was already World No 2 on three occasions, but for one reason or another, the top spot eluded her.

But this time there was no holding her back. Her entry into the final at 2015 All England tournament and her wins at the China Open 2014 and Indian Grand Prix Gold in January this year catapulted her again to World No 2 spot and within touching distance of that fabled spot.

Sucker for hardwork
Saina is an incredible hard worker, a quality that all her three main coaches have told me about. The earliest coach, Dronacharya SM Arif, who groomed her from the age of eight to about 12, in Hyderabad, said: “She was always hungry for training and wanted to compete with the boys. It was very difficult for me to explain that her body will perform better if she took more rest. But that spark of a champion in making was apparent from the moment she walked on the court. She had the right grip and naturally fast movement.”

After Arif came Gopichand with whom she played some of her best badminton and won the bronze at the 2012 Olympics and the CWG Gold in 2010. “Saina is a glutton for hardwork. A delight for any coach. (She) Never says no. And she has great strength — both mental and physical. She is bound to be the best one day,” said Gopichand.

Vimal Kumar her current coach also gushes over her work ethics. Vimal acknowledges that though it will be nice to be World No 1, the priority for both of them is to win the World Championships and major titles like All England.

International Badminton Federation/Badminton World Federation world rankings were officially started in 1982. Prakash Padukone was unofficially called No 1 as he was the All England champion in 1980. But it will be correct to say that Saina is the first Indian to attain this ranking officially. The way Saina is going there is every reason to believe that not only will she dominate the game globally for sometime but will also end up winning titles that have eluded her so far.

The writer is a former India player

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