By Gaurav Sharma
New Delhi: Indian badminton continued to move northwards in 2018, especially the women’s singles players — P.V. Sindhu and veteran Saina Nehwal — as they dished out one stunning performance after another.
While Sindhu extended her status as India’s leading shuttler and shrugged off the ‘choker’ tag by winning the BWF World Tour Finals title, Saina bounced back in style from injuries to pocket a few titles.
Sindhu was critcised despite a string of brilliant performances throughout the year. She was something of a juggernaut on the global stage, reaching the summit clash in a tournament after tournament, only to fall at the final hurdle. She had to settle for five silver medals in 2018, but the lack of a title haunted her every single day — until she came good at the last tournament of the year.
The wait for gold ended when the 23-year-old went on to clinch the BWF World Finals title and answered her critics.
On the other hand, the 28-year-old Saina, who struggled with consistency and fitness in 2017, grappled gallantly with a cramped schedule and went on to clinch a few titles along with the runner-up finishes.
Saina won the gold medal at the Commonwealth Games followed by a bronze at the Asiad. She also reached the finals at the Indonesia Masters, Denmark Open and Syed Modi International.
A couple of male shuttlers also earned respect at the global stage. Sameer Verma won the Swiss Open Super 300, Syed Modi International Super 300 and the Hyderabad Open Super 100. He also entered the semi-finals of the World Tour Finals, his maiden appearance at the prestigious event.
Sourabh Verma also returned from injury and participated in the Asiad. He also claimed the Dutch Open Super 100 event in October.
Promising junior player Lakshya Sen also made headlines, clinching the Asian Junior Championships title along with silver and bronze at the Youth Olympic Games and World Junior Championships respectively.
A major disappointment in the men’s singles category was the experienced Kidambi Srikanth, who impressed in 2017. Srikanth failed to clinch any title in 2018, despite managing to enter the quarter-finals and semi-finals a few times.
There were good outings in the doubles section for India. Several pairs finished on the podium at the Commonwealth Games.
Experienced player Ashwini Ponnappa along with N. Sikki Reddy settled for a bronze in mixed doubles while the men’s duo of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy became the first Indian men’s doubles pair to bag a CWG silver.
Apart from this, the duo also won the Hyderabad Open Super 100 followed by a runners-up finish at the Syed Modi Super 300 tournament.
Hopefully, this is just the beginning of a glorious era for Indian badminton, especially for Sindhu as she is in her early 20s is highly likely to improve and further flourish in the future.