Olympics Begin In
Begin typing your search above and press return to search.

Asian Games

Where is Saina Nehwal, the pioneering badminton player?

Saina, who achieved many firsts for Indian badminton, won the bronze medal at the 2018 Asian Games. But recently, she has slipped through the BWF World Rankings.

Where is Saina Nehwal, the pioneering badminton player?

Saina Nehwal won the women's singles bronze medal at the Asian Games in 2018.


The Bridge Desk

Updated: 3 Oct 2023 1:23 AM GMT

Where is Saina Nehwal, the 2018 Asian Games bronze medallist? This question making the rounds on the lips of Indian fans.

Saina, India's long-standing flagbearer of women's singles, is missing the Asian Games in Hangzhou. Saina, who also won a women's team bronze medal in 2014, gave the selection trials for the Asiad a miss, citing a fitness issue. She is currently in Switzerland with her shuttler husband Parupalli Kashyap, enjoying vacation.

The 33-year-old has been on and off the court in recent times, and she has slipped through the BWF World Rankings. She is currently ranked 54 in women's singles.

Saina, a former world junior champion, made her debut at the BWF World Junior Championships in 2006. She was just 16 when she won the silver medal at the Junior Worlds. Two years later, she improved her performance to a gold medal.

The star shuttler also won two senior World Championships medals - a silver and bronze in 2015 and 2017, respectively.

A London Olympics medallist, Saina has the distinction of earning many firsts for India. She was the first Indian women's singles player to become the world no. 1, in April 2015. She also had the distinction of becoming the first Indian women's singles player to win the Commonwealth Games gold medal in 2010. Saina would repeat the feat in the 2018 CWG.

Saina has also won a staggering 10 BWF Superseries and one World Tour title. In fact, Saina won more titles in the BWF Superseries/World Tour tournaments than her immediate successor PV Sindhu in her career. Sindhu, on the other hand, clinched seven titles - four World Tour and three Superseries titles. World Tour system replaced Superseries in 2017.

However, Saina has been going through a lean patch of late. She was not part of the recently concluded World Championships either. Since she has not been playing on the World Tour regularly, her position went down in the pecking order of international badminton. As a result, she became ineligible for the World Championships in Copenhagen.

Former world no. 1 Saina Nehwal in action during a tournament.

With Saina not making the cut in the Asian Games, her absence from the Indian squad perhaps indicated the end of an era. At the last edition of the Asiad, Saina won bronze, and PV Sindhu won silver. The Saina-Sindhu duo made it two medals for India in women's singles in what was a first for India.

However, Saina is no longer in the reckoning for a place in the Indian team, with youngster Ashmita Chaliha taking the second women's singles player's slot in the contingent for the Asian Games in Hangzhou. Anupama Upadhaya and Malvika Bansod completed the women's team. But in her absence, India could not progress beyond the quarterfinals.

Saina last played a tournament at the Singapore Open in July 2022, where she lost to Thailand's Ratchanok Intanon in the first round. Saina played only six tournaments and nine matches in 2023 and is yet to reach the quarterfinals. She last won a title at the Indonesia Masters in January 2019.

The year 2023 is important for all the players as qualification for the Paris 2024 is on the line. But Saina's continuous absence from the World Tour means she could miss out on qualification for next year's Olympics as well.

Saina, who started her career with a boom by regularly beating the Chinese shuttlers, is not among the top shuttlers in the world now. While she has had an illustrious career spanning over 15 years, injuries seemed to have gotten the best of her.

Next Story