2017: Indian badminton's milestone year
One of the places where 2017 really shone was in the Indian badminton circuit where the year brought many joys, titles and broken records, writes Ananya Das
In all fairness, 2017 was a little bit strange for multiple reasons. The political weather was rough and the world was marred by unique and disturbing situations that made us hope that 2017 would really just end as soon as possible. However, for many, it was one of the best years one could hope for and one of the places where 2017 really shone was in the Indian badminton circuit where the year brought many joys, titles and broken records. This year truly was a landmark year for Indian badminton players and here's why.
Back in 2010, Saina Nehwal's hattrick of winning titles proved to the Indian audience that there is so much more to sports than just cricket. She single-handedly brought enormous popularity to badminton and there was no stopping thereafter. This year only increases that popularity by ten folds. In a very first, Kidambi Srikanth clinched four Super Series titles in a row in one single calendar year at just 24 years old, becoming only the 4th player to have achieved this feat so far. Having done this, Srikanth made sure that sport that he's been playing since he was a young boy got all the spiralling popularity that it can garner. Things didn't come easily to him, though. Having fought off injuries that could have seriously affected his game and the intense mental pressure to be the best, Kidambi overcame these fears and adversaries only to rank as World No. 3 coming up from the mere thirties he ranked in the beginning of 2017. It wasn't just Kidambi who made his way through to being one of the bests. Currently, 5 Indians rank within the top 20s in World Rankings with players like Kidambi Srikanth, Sai Praneeth, and Ajay Jayaram. After narrowly missing the gold medal in Rio 2016, PV Sindhu made sure she brought home some silverware that is only one of its kinds. In all senses, PV Sindhu had an exceptional year with winning the Indian and Korean Open Super Series and was the runner-up in Honk Kong Open against Tai Tzu-Ying. When putting things in perspective, the young Indian, only 22, has brought home a medal when played in a World Championship right from 2014, 2016 and 2017, the only exception being 2015 where Saina Nehwal took the cake. However, Sindhu admits that there are flaws in her game and a player can only improve going forward. Her patience and level-headedness have kept her in the game and there's no doubt that the young shuttler will be vying for some gold sparkle in 2018.
It was also delightful to see the former World No 1 Saina Nehwal to regain her fitness in 2017 and come back from the horrendous injury she picked up in 2016 during the Olympics and though not many titles and trophies came her way this year, she did win the National title for the third time in her career and that is just as satisfying. 2017 also saw the return of the Badminton Premier League for their third season which comprises of 8 teams with marquee shuttlers who play for respective Indian states; the league is similar to the Indian Super League that does the same for football.
All in all, 2017 was a big year for Indian badminton. It brought the game closer to the audience and made them realize that there is a future in the closed courts of badminton and one can only hope that the players surpass their achievements in 2018 and that we get to see new and emerging players come about in the brand new year.