Saina Nehwal: India’s Badminton Queen

Introduction and Early Life

Saina Nehwal is undoubtedly India’s greatest badminton player and one of India’s most iconic sports personalities. Saina was born on the 17th of March 1990 in Hisar, Haryana. Saina’s mother was a state-level badminton player while her father used to play badminton at the university-level. Saina originally took up badminton as a child due to loneliness. She also wanted to fulfil her mother’s dream of playing badminton at a national level. She trained at Pullela Gopichand’s Gopichand Badminton Academy, then trained at Prakash Padukone’s Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy, before returning to the Gopichand Badminton Academy. Saina also holds a brown belt in Karate.

Saina with her parents
Saina with her parents

Achievements

Saina is a former World No. 1 player, with her being declared the World No. 1 female badminton player on the 2nd of April, 2015. This made her the only female Indian and second Indian overall to achieve this. She is currently the World No. 19. She is the only Indian to win at least one medal in all of the major existing BWF individual events- the Olympics, the BWF World Championships, the BWF Junior World Championships- at any point of time. She is the first Indian badminton player to win an Olympic medal and advance to the BWF World Championship finals. She is also the only Indian badminton player to win the BWF World Junior Championship. In May 2006, with her winning the Philippines Open, Saina became the first Indian woman and youngest Asian to win a 4-star badminton tournament. She is the first Indian to win a Super Series title. Saina is also the first Indian badminton player to win two gold singles medals at the Commonwealth Games, with her wins in the 2010 and 2018 Games. She captained the Indian team and contributed majorly to getting India a bronze medal in the 2014 Thomas and Uber Cup, which was also the country’s first major BWF event team medal.

In 2008, she received the Most Promising Player of the Year (2008) award from the Badminton World Federation. She was a recipient of the Arjuna award in 2009 and the Padma Shri in 2010. She also was the recipient of the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna that year. In 2016, she was awarded the Padma Bhushan, India’s second highest civilian honour.

Saina being awarded the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna
Saina being awarded the Major Dhyan Chand Khel Ratna
Saina being awarded the Padma Bhushan
Saina being awarded the Padma Bhushan

Career Highlights

Saina has played a total of 640 singles matches till date, and has won 440 of them. She has won 4 Super Series Premier events, 7 Super Series events, 8 Grand Prix Gold events and 1 Grand Prix title. In the 2012 London Olympic Games, she won the bronze medal. She has won 2 gold medals at the Commonwealth Games, in the years 2010 and 2018. She won a bronze medal in the 2018 Asian Games. In the BWF World Championship, she won a silver medal in 2015 and a bronze medal in 2017. Saina has won 3 bronze medals in the Asian Championships in the years 2010, 2016 and 2018. At the national level, Saina is a 13-timw winner of the National Badminton Championships.

Saina with her Olympic bronze medal
Saina with her Olympic bronze medal