Aparna Popat couldn’t quite conquer the international arena that we had expected her too. In fact, apart from Prakash Padukone and P Gopichand, Indian shuttlers haven’t really lit up the international arena. But lately, a pretty and pretty talented girl from Hyderabad has got the hopes soaring higher again.
The country has been abuzz with the Sania mania on the tennis court for a couple of years now. But one equally pretty, pugnacious and prodigious talent promises to steal a bit of the thunder from right under Sania’s nose. And the name of that girl is Saina, Saina Nehwal.
Last year, Indian badminton’s latest find Saina Nehwal was been signed on by the Champions Trust floated by the richest Indian, Lakshmi Niwas Mittal.
While signing her, the trust had said, “She is an athlete with extreme talent and definitely one of India’s rising stars. She has been dominating the Indian circuit for the last year and will soon set her mark in the international scenario.”
Some say that she is just as good as her mentor, the former All-England Championships winner, P. Gopichand. While others strongly disagree; for, they believe that she can actually be better than him! With Gopichand himself being the successor of the great Prakash Padukone, the 17 March, 1990 born girl is already in a good league. What should help matters more is that Gopichand is also a member of the Advisory board of Champions Trust.
All the buzz is barely undeserved. After all, Saina, with her title victory at the 2006 Philippines Open, is the first Indian woman to win a four-star badminton event. That’s not all, Saina Nehwal has won the Asian Satellite Badminton Tournament (India Chapter) two times – once in 2005 (Delhi) beating Aparna Poppat and then in 2006 (Mumbai). No Indian girl has ever achieved that feat.
Unlike most Indian sports-persons across the various sports, Saina relies basically on ruthless power! A bit of the reason can be attributed to her impressive lineage of a state that borders on everything raw and physical, Haryana. Both her parents, Harvir Singh, a scientist at the Directorate of Oilseeds Research, and Usha Rani were former State champions in Haryana and it did not take long for Saina to start swinging the racquet.
She had moved to Hyderabad seven years ago and was trained by Dronacharya Awardee S.M. Arif for two years till his retirement from the SAI. Saina is currently coached by Pullela Gopichand’s Academy in Hyderabad.
She has been the runner-up twice in the National women’s single event, losing both times to Aparna Popat in the final and holds the Under-19 women’s single title.
Her career best world ranking was 21. Presently (as in February 2007) she is ranked 27th in the world.