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BWF World Championship 2019: Saina's quest for a medal higher than silver
The queen of Indian badminton Saina Nehwal enters the 2019 edition and the one thing she would be hoping for is a gold medal.
World Championships is a few days away and the 2019 Badminton World Championship will be held in Basel, Switzerland from 19th August till 25th August 2019. India's hopes for a medal in World Championships have always been in the Women's singles category. The queen of Indian badminton enters the 2019 edition and the one thing she would be hoping for is a gold medal. Saina has been the first for many things in Indian badminton and it's no secret that her quest for gold is hungrier than ever.
Saina Nehwal in the World ChampionshipsDespite having many firsts to her name, it wasn't until 2015 that Saina was able to etch her name in the medals’ books of World Championships, much later than her compatriot and fierce rival teammate Sindhu, who managed to do it in 2013. Saina in the world championships has been a mixed bag, comprising of disappointments on one hand and triumphs on the other. Saina is no stranger to World Championships - a tournament she's been playing since 2007. It is the 11th time that she is participating in World Championships, a feat only a few can achieve in the sport of badminton. It is a testament to her grit and determination over the years. In her initial years of tournament appearance, Saina was constantly pitted against top Chinese players towards quarter-finals and pre-quarters, unable to make it to the finals every year. But the Hyderabad native kept improving with every tournament. Despite having many firsts to her name, it wasn't until 2015 that Saina was able to etch her name in the medals’ books of World Championships In the 2015 World Championship, Saina's persistence paid off as she finally overcame Wang Yihan in the quarter-finals after a hard-fought win against the top-seeded Chinese. She eventually reached the final and lost to Carolina Marin who turned out to be her fierce rival over the years.The year 2015 remains to be the most successful World Championships campaign for Saina as she won her first silver medal in the prestigious tournament. In the 2017 World Championship, Saina continued to impress, but couldn't defend her silver medal from the previous edition and had to settle for bronze. She lost a hard-fought three-set battle against Okuhara, who went on to win the tournament defeating Saina's fellow compatriot Sindhu. 2018 World Championship turned out to be an uneventful story for Nehwal as Marin rattled through her in the quarter-finals handing her a heavy defeat. The scoreline read 6-21, 11-21 - a defeat Saina would not want to recollect.
How has 2019 fared for Saina?2019 started for Saina with a bang as she won the Indonesian masters albeit with an asterisk hanging over the title. She won the title courtesy of Marin retiring from the finals game after suffering a torn ACL injury. Post the win, Saina Nehwal has seen a huge slump in her form due to injuries restricting her consistency and rhythm. In the tournaments that followed, Saina couldn't cross the quarter-final hurdle and suffered multiple early-round exits as well. She had to withdraw from a few tournaments due to nagging injuries.
How do the draws favour Saina?Saina was supposed to play in the Swiss Open that happened earlier this year but later withdrew due to a nagging stomach injury. Had she participated in the tournament, Saina would have had a fair idea of the venue and in the process, she would have acclimatized to the drift and movement of the arena. Saina is likely to face either Sabrina Jaquet or Soraya in the second round of the BWF Championships 2019. To be really fair, Saina has received a fairly easy draw in the 2019 edition of the BWF World Championships which should help her with easy progress till the quarter-finals. Saina has been given a first-round bye and is likely to face either of Sabrina Jaquet or Soraya in the second round. It is expected that Sabrina will come out of the first round against whom Saina has a comfortable 2-0 H2H record & is likely to be untroubled against her. In the third round, Saina is likely to face upcoming Dane women's singles star Mia Blichfeldt. It's a tricky match because both players have never met in the badminton circuit and are relatively unknown of each other's strengths and weaknesses. Mia has played Sindhu quite a few times over the course of the last 12 months and has managed to trouble Sindhu a bit, but not enough to take a win from Sindhu. Saina would be hoping to take few tips from that matches against Sindhu. In the eventual case that Saina has it easy and reaches the quarter-finals, she is likely to face Chen Yufei who has had a stellar calendar year which saw her claiming the All England Championship title. Saina has a 1-2 H2H record against Chen Yufei in individual BWF tournaments and had consistently pushed Chen to the distance in her previous meetings over the years. Quarterfinals will be a tough task for Saina, however, she will be savoring the chance to meet Sindhu in the semi-finals, a contest she always devours.
Can Saina do it this year?The absence of Marin again boosts the chances of Saina just like it does for Sindhu. If Saina's year wasn't plagued by injuries, the cocky me would have said, "Yeah, Saina is taking it all this year". But it was never about excuses for Saina. She is a warrior and has always been so. My personal view is that Saina will make it to the semi-finals. So who wins the battle? Roll on next week!