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Badminton

No Indian woman shuttler in top 15 after 15 years

PV Sindhu has tumbled down to World No. 17 in the latest BWF rankings, thus marking a watershed moment in Indian badminton.

No Indian woman shuttler in top 15 after 15 years
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PV Sindhu in action at second round of Malaysia Masters 2024 (FILE PHOTO)

By

Abon Gooptu

Updated: 19 July 2023 3:49 AM GMT

With Indian shuttler P.V. Sindhu tumbling down the ranks in the latest BWF rankings, this week marks the first time since 2008 that the top 15 ranks of women's singles in badminton do not include an Indian.

Exactly 15 years ago, Saina Nehwal entered the top 15 in the BWF rankings. Back then, it had been the first time an Indian woman had reached the top echelons of the sport since 1983. Since then, Saina and Sindhu have ruled the roost. Saina has fallen off the top levels for the last few years, and now with Sindhu slipping out, we could again be at a watershed moment.

The Bridge breaks down the glory years of Saina and Sindhu:

2008-2012: The Saina Years

Saina Nehwal leapfrogged into the top 15 in August of her breakthrough year of 2008. It was her miraculous victory over World No. 5 Wang Chen (HKG) in the women’s singles quarterfinals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics that nudged Nehwal in the rankings.

READ | Who after PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal?

By the end of 2008, Nehwal had stormed into the top 10.

Soon enough Nehwal’s promising performances translated to match-winning performances. With her 2009 Indonesian Open gold, she became the first Indian ever to win a BWF Super Series event. In August of 2010, Nehwal would reach her then career-best rank of World No.2.

Saina Nehwal's ranking history since 2010

Other achievements during this time period included triumphs at the 2010 Indian Open, 2010 Singapore Open and a very memorable 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medal for the Haryanvi shuttler.

Meanwhile, a sensational badminton prodigy in the shape of PV Sindhu started rising the ranks. Her silver medal at the 2011 Dutch Open saw Sindhu end the year with a rank of World No. 31.

2012-2016: Rise of India as a women’s badminton superpower

Two Indian women became the stalwarts of Indian badminton and continued to elevate India to new heights.

Nehwal entered the 2012 London Olympics as World No.4 where she clinched bronze and became the first woman to win an Olympic medal in Badminton. She would additionally win bronze at the 2014 Incheon Asian Games.

Saina Nehwal with her historic Olympic bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics.

During this four-year period, Nehwal consistently remained amidst the top five in the world.

On April 15, 2015, she became the number one ranked player in the world. In due process, she became the first Indian woman to have achieved the top spot. She became only the second Indian after Prakash Padukone in 1980 to achieve this rare feat.

Simultaneously, Sindhu became World No. 15 for the first time on 27 April, 2013. She would consistently remain in the top 15 for a decade.

PV Sindhu's ranking history since 2010

Sindhu would go on to enter the top-10 in August of the same year with a scintillating bronze medal at the BWF World Championship.

Sindhu became the first Indian shuttler to win a BWF World Championship medal in 2013. Despite maintaining a steady ranking, she stumbled to World No. 14 in May, 2015 due to serious injuries.

Sindhu won bronze at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2014 BWF World Championships. Furthermore, she conquered the Macau Open three consecutive times.

2016-2020: The Sindhu Years

The 2016-2020 period was extremely successful for Sindhu as she always remained in the top 10 in this time period. In 2016, she would clinch a historic silver medal at the Rio Olympics.

Sindhu became India’s first World Champion in 2019 when she finally tasted gold after having to settler for silver in 2017 and 2018.

She would achieve her career-best ranking of World No 2 on April 6, 2017.

Despite the daring Sindhu dominating the world, an experienced Nehwal defeated her in the badminton women’s singles at the 2018 Commonwealth Games to clinch gold – just as Nehwal defeated Sindhu in their first meeting at the 2014 India Open final.

Nehwal ended 2019 as World No. 11.

The story since 2020

Injuries got the better of Nehwal in 2020 and she couldn’t qualify for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. She dropped to 18th position on January 19, 2020 and would never return to the top 15.

She is currently World No. 36.

In contrast, Sindhu would go on to clinch bronze at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics (becoming the only Indian woman and only the second Indian to clinch two individual Olympic medals).

Her best rank in this time period was World No. 4 on November 1, 2022. She never left the top ten since 2020 till her drop this year.

Injuries eventually tainted Sindhu’s performances as well. Her performance this season has been below par since her return from a five-month injury break due to a stress fracture in her ankle.

She started 2023 as World No 7 but has now officially stumbled down to World No. 17 after failing to win a title so far in 2023.

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