After she won the bronze at 2012 London Olympics, India’s Saina Nehwal came close to quitting badminton. The reason was attributable to her form that took a nose dive in the next year-and-a half. Saina found it hard to see her slipping in BWF world rankings and decided to call it quits. There were factors that Saina couldn’t control; she suffered from injuries and began losing to many lower ranked players in some tournaments. Her doting parents, who had been supporting her since the childhood, were worried as well. Saina was world no.2, when she won the bronze at London but a series of disappointing failures brought her down to no.9. Luckily for her and India, Saina found a mentor in Vimal Kumar. She left Gopichand’s academy in Hyderabad and moved to Bangalore. Vimal Kumar’s system of coaching was vastly different from the hard grind at Hyderabad and suddenly Saina felt different as she began winning tournaments and her ranking kept going up. Much before the Jakarta World Championship, she reached the no.1 position, though it was a short time since Spain’s Carolina Marin soon overtook her. However, Saina is now back again to the no.1 spot. Like Saina, Kidambi Srikanth also scaled new heights in the current season and broke into the top 5 of the BWF rankings. He took the national no.1 position from Parupalli Kashyap, won his maiden India Super Series, Swiss Open Grand Prix Gold, China Open and reached the final of Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold in January 2015. He acquired the world no.3 spot behind China’s Chen Long and Denmark’s Jan O Jorgensen. On August 29, 2015, Srikanth was bestowed with the prestigious Arjuna Award by the President of India.
These days, when Saina plays in major tournaments, one cannot miss the faces of Vimal Kumar and Madhumita Bisht, who keep a close watch on her game. While Vimal is Saina’s coach and mentor, Madumita represents Badminton Federation of India. Saina believes that Vimal Kumar’s methods have brought the turnaround in her game, when she was literally down and out. Though she lost in the final of world championships at Jakarta, she firmly believes that the recent improvement in her game is completely attributable to Vimal Kumar. In a period during 2013-14, Saina had slumped to no.9 in world rankings and wanted to quit badminton. But the advent of Vimal Kumar changed everything. However, Vimal Kumar feels a sense of pride in getting an opportunity to coach someone like Saina, who is committed to work ethics. The coach was disappointed, when Saina lost to Carolina Marin in the World Championship final after playing wonderfully against Wang Yihan of China earlier. That was a classic, in which Saina brought out her best. After losing nine times to Yihan, it was a sweet victory for Saina. In big matches, the composure of the player is more important and Saina demonstrated that in full measure against the Chinese. Saina had displayed similar calmness against Japan’s Sayaka Takahashi in her third round match. It is now one year for Rio Olympic Games, which is the next big stage for Saina but before that, she will play in Japan and the Euro Circuit. Lot of things need be done to fine-tune her game. As per the latest BWF ranking, Saina has come back to occupy the top spot ahead of Spain’s world champion Carolina Marin.
Just as Saina improved her form, Kidambi Srikanth also broke new barriers. He became the first Indian male player to win a BWF Super-Series Premier. That was the 2014 China Open and Srikanth defeated none other than the great Lin Dan in the final. Until few weeks ago, Srikanth was ranked as world no.3 by BWF but he has since been displaced to no.4 by Japan’s Kento Momota. However, Srikanth has scaled phenomenal heights despite a battle with meningitis in July 2013. As soon as he began playing again, he became better and better. In recognition to his achievements, Government of India bestowed him with the prestigious Arjuna award, which he received from the President of India 10 days ago. Srikanth revealed recently that he was inspired by the encouraging words from legendary cricketer Sachin Tendulkar, who said that the ace shuttler would soon become the world no.1.
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