Saina Nehwal Photo credits: Indian Badminton LeagueThe Badminton World Federation announced their latest rankings at Kuala Lumpur on Thursday, December 25, as per which Indian badminton stars Kidambi Srikanth and Saina Nehwal have jumped up several places to finish fourth in men’s and women’s singles categories. Playing gutsy badminton, the two Indians rode on their super performances in the latter part of the year. Srikanth’s progress has been particularly remarkable because at the end of 2013, he was ranked 47th in the world and he is only the third Indian after legendary badminton icons; Prakash Padukone and Pulella Gopichand, who had broken into world’s top five in their heydays. Prakash had the distinction of reaching the no.1 spot two decades ago, while Gopichand had reached the no. 4 spot during his prime. Among women players, Saina Nehwal left her woes of 2013 behind and played far better in 2014. Saina has had a great career thus far as the winner of Commonwealth Games Gold Medal and the London Olympic bronze. As she began 2014, beginning at no.9, she regained a few places to improve her world ranking to 7. Her match performances improved subsequently and she progressed to no.4 in November and kept that place as per the BWF’s year-end announcements.

For Kidambi Srikanth, 2014 was a very successful year since he had a ranking of below the first 40 at the beginning of the year. But he kept up the level of his game and beat several seeded players during the year. The best achievement for the 21-year old Indian in 2014 was winning the China Super Series Premier tournament, where he defeated world champion Lin Dan of China in the final. Incidentally, Lin Dan has earlier been defeated by just one other Indian, who happens to be Srikanth’s current coach P Gopichand. Srikanth also reached the semifinals in Hong Kong and the Year-end world finals in Dubai Supersries. Srikanth’s rise to the top is even more creditable because for a while during the year, he went on the sidelines due to injury. But when he came back, he played to his potential and took the seeded players head-on.

Saina began 2014 with victory in the Indian Grand Prix Gold in January and capped another victory in the Star Australian Open in June 2014. Later along with compatriot Srikanth, Saina also won the Thaihot China Super series Premier in November. She ended the year on a high note by reaching the semifinals of the BWF Dubai world Super-series in December. In 2013, Saina was not 100% fit and that came in the way of her performance. But her display in 2014 showed that she still has the fire burning within her for the big occasions. She had a great chance in Dubai, where she beat world no.2, world no.4 and world no.6 during the round-robin phase but got unlucky against the Taiwanese player after winning the first game of her semifinal match. Saina is growing in confidence and her eyes are now trained on the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. For that, she would need to improve her performance further in 2015. At the start of 2014, Saina had dropped to no.9 in the world but by sheer hard work, she finished the year at a creditable world no.4.