The New Face of Indian Sports

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Indian badminton sensation Saina Nehwal went on to win the Chinese Taipei Grand Prix Gold Open badminton tournament by beating Cheah Li Ya Lydia of Malaysia clinching her second Grand Prix tournament win.

World No.14 Saina Nehwal has been in top form in the past one year. Even in the Olympics she had done India proud by making it to the quarter finals only to lose to her opponent Maria Yulianti of Indonesia. Nehwal, after her performance in the first two rounds of the Beijing Olympics had raised the hopes of the Indians of winning an Olympic medal in the sport of badminton. Though she may have lost in a closely fought encounter and couldn’t get India a medal, her credentials and talent as a player of world class abilities could never be doubted. At the Beijing Olympics, in the pre quarters, Saina had beaten Chen Wang of Honk Kong and this had made the entire world sit up and take note of this young prodigy. Seemingly having put the Beijing Olympics loss behind her quickly, Saina Nehwal won the Chinese Taipei Grand Prix in great style.

The eighteen year old sensation from Hyderabad was seeded second for the tournament. In the finals she beat her Malaysian opponent 21-8, 21-19 to clinch the title. Saina had her first major title win at the Philippines Open in 2005. Since then, the performance of the young prodigy had fluctuated but she is reaching her peak now and it will not be far before she gets into the top ten rankings of badminton which will be a great achievement at her age.

This tournament was not the first major achievement of Saina. She was the first Indian shuttler to make it into the semi-finals of a Super series event in June and had also earlier entered the quarter finals of the Thailand Open. At the World junior badminton tournament in the year 2006, Saina had finished as a runner up.

After having won the $170,000 tournament, Saina was all but praise for her coach P. Gopichand. She even went on to say that this was the best win of her career. She became the first Indian woman to win two Grand Prix tournaments and also has also joined the elite list comprising of former Indian badminton greats like Prakash Padukone and P. Gopichand. Saina Nehwal’s win has come at a time when Indian sports is going through its Renaissance period. With three medals at the Beijing Olympics, as well as Leander Paes shining for India in the US open, things could not have been better. Saina knows very well that this is the biggest win of her career and also one of the greatest achievements for Indian badminton. But she will have to perform with the same enthusiasm and hunger so as to enter the top ten rankings and then even go on to compete for the first. The tournament victory is sure to boost her moral and her performance in the days to come.

Shishir Shrivastava

[Image source: http://www.tribuneindia.com/2006/20061118/spr-trib3.jpg]

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