Saina shines in a subdued season for Indian badminton
Saina Nehwal continued to break new grounds in a year that saw her reach the pinnacle of world badminton but it turned out to be a subdued season, marred by injuries and poor form, for the rest of the Indian shuttlers.
Saina and K Srikanth continued their good run, winning two titles each, while PV Sindhu, Parupalli Kashyap and Ajay Jayaram battled through injuries to claim a title but overall the Indian shuttlers could not reach the heights that they achieved in a watershed 2014.
Continuing her rich vein of form, Saina clinched the Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold and then broke the jinx of never winning the Indian Open Super Series with a splendid performance which catapulted her to the World No. 1 position.
The Olympic bronze medalist also produced stellar performances at three of the most prestigious events in world badminton calender, reaching the finals of the All England and World Championship and the China Super Series Premier.
However, the girl from Hyderabad suffered an ankle injury at Fuzhou in November which forced her to skip the Hong Kong Open and also posed a serious question mark on her performance at the season-ending BWF Super Series Finals but Saina stunned the world with a superlative win over World No. 1 Carolina Marin in the second match before fitness issues saw her fail to qualify for the semifinals.
Sindhu, who had mesmerised the world by bagging five bronze medals including a World Championship medal last year, suffered a stress fracture on her left foot and it affected her game through out the season as she made too many early exits from tournaments.
Despite recovering from injury, Sindhu struggled with her form before making her maiden Super Series Final at the Denmark Open in October.
The 20-year-old, however, ensured she has at least one crown in her kitty as she completed a hat-trick of titles, winning the women’s singles at Macau Open Grand Prix Gold.
In men’s singles, Kidambi Srikanth had emerged as the next big thing last year when he had beaten two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan en route to his China Open triumph and the 22-year-old from Guntur continued his rampaging run in the first half of the season, winning the Swiss Open and India Open in March and reached the World No. 3 ranking in June.
However, his form dipped after that as he made early exits from tournaments which took a toll on his ranking. The only time he came close to winning a title was when he reached the finals of the Indonesia Masters early this month.
Though his ranking dipped, it was good enough to earn him a second successive place at the BWF Super Series Finals but the Indian could not win a single match and ended the season on a low note. Commonwealth Games champion Kashyap started the season with a title win at Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold and clinched a win over World No. 1 Chen Long en route to his semifinal finish in June at Indonesia Open. He also reached the semifinals of Singapore Open.