World Badminton Championships 2017: PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal assure India of multiple medal-haul for the first time
India's ever-improving badminton stars achieved yet another feat as they guaranteed a multiple medal-haul from the BWF World Championships for the first time in the 40-year history of the tournament with both PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal progressing to the semi-finals at Glasgow, Scotland on Friday. It was the fourth seeded Sindhu who first delighted badminton aficionados in the country with a fluent 21-14, 21-9 win over the fifth seed Sun Yu, thereby assuring India of its first medal from this edition.
In a late match, Nehwal joined her in the last-four, although in a contrasting style. The 12th seed needed 1 hour 14 minutes to stave off the challenge of a spirited 16th seeded Kirsty Gilmour, 21-19, 18-21, 21-15.
Sixth and seventh Worlds medals for India
Overall, the two golden girls will be bringing home India’s sixth and seventh medals from this prestigious world meet. Indian legend Prakash Padukone grabbed the country’s maiden medal in 1983 - a bronze - which was emulated by the women’s doubles pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa in 2011.
In 2013, PV Sindhu announced her arrival on the world stage in an incredible fashion by getting the bronze which was the first time any Indian women’s singles shuttler got to taste medal glory. The Pullela Gopichand protégé repeated her heroics the next year by capturing her second bronze.
2015 was the year in which India bettered the colour of its medal when Saina advanced to the summit clash where she lost to the defending champion Carolina Marin, giving India its only silver.
This time, India has gone one notch higher by securing an unprecedented two medals that provide the best evidence of how far Indian shuttlers have come.
All-Indian final in the offing?
For the former World No. 1 Nehwal, this was her biggest high since undergoing a knee surgery in September. Questions swirled over her form since she struggled to make an impact consistently in the last few months, making quite a few premature exits from the elite tournaments.
She has slipped to a lowly 16th ranking, had remained largely out of the spotlight and was not even among the title favourites in the World Championships build-up. But once back at the familiar tournament where she secured a silver medal in 2015, Saina has risen like a phoenix from the ashes to produce her very best version and surge to the semis.
Sindhu has been on the radar ever since she clinched the historic Rio Olympic silver medal last August. In the past one year, the 22-year-old has won two Superseries titles and one Grand Prix Gold.
She has made consistency her second name now - a trait that took years to build. Singled out as one of the biggest title contenders, the World No. 4 was presented with her sternest test in the Round of 16 where she was two points away from defeat against the 17th ranked Cheung Ngan Yi. But the lanky girl inspired herself just at the right time and stood tall at the very end with a gritty 19-21, 23-21, 21-17 win.
That comeback from the clutches of disaster definitely stood her in good stead as proved by her effortless display against the fifth seed Sun Yu in the quarters a day after. It would thus not be a surprise to see these two girls crossing swords in a historic first-ever all-Indian final.
But two Japanese and Chinese shuttlers stand in the way and they could very much have the final word. For Saina, it is the seventh seeded Nozomi Okuhara of Japan and for Sindhu, it is the ninth seed Chen Yufei of China.
Saturday promises to be a historic day for Indian badminton and it will be fascinating to see how the Indian duo fares!