What does it take to become a World No.1?
As an 8-year-old, your day starts at 4 am, you travel 25 km to the stadium and train. You train so hard, for so long, every day, that the stadium practically becomes your home.
You love your sport. No matter what, when you are in action, you forget everything else — the tiredness, the fatigue, the noise. And, you want to win.
You lose a tough final, you are disheartened. A win would have placed you in the prestigious academy. But wait, the winner cannot join and you get a shot!
The story of how Saina Nehwal climbed up the ladder in the world of badminton, as described in the book She Dared, from a teenager to India’s first female shuttler to become World No. 1, fighting many a battle, is nothing short of inspirational.
By the time Saina was 25, she had achieved almost everything there was. She was the first Indian to win a BWF Super Series title, the first Indian to win an Olympic medal in the sport, the first Indian to have reached the final of the BWF World Championships amongst many other things.
However, one thing had always eluded her, the World No.1 rank. In 2015, when Carolina Marin lost to Ratchanok Intanon in the semifinal of the India Open, Nehwal assured the numer uno position. Thus, she became the first non-Chinese player since Denmark’s Tine Baun in 2010 to hold the number one spot in the women’s category and the first Indian woman ever to be World No. 1.
In the men’s category, Prakash Padukone had climbed to the top 35 years ago. Saina was herself ranked at 2 back in 2010 and has been a top-10 player since 2009.
Today, five years later, Saina celebrates her 30th birthday. She is no longer her former self, injuries have taken a toll. But still, we see glimpses of her brilliance and hopefully, we will keep seeing more in the days to come.