Saina Nehwal created history on Saturday as she became the first Indian woman shuttler to attain the world number one ranking after her closest challenger for the spot, Spain’s Carolina Marin, lost in the India Open Super Series semifinal in Delhi.
Though the official rankings will be out only on Thursday next week, the 25-year-old Indian has been assured of her ascent to the top owing to Marin’s loss in the last-four stage.
The reigning world champion, who was seeded second, lost to third seed Thai Ratchanok Intanon 21-19 21-23 22-20. Prakash Padukone had the distinction of being the No. 1 men’s badminton player but Saina became the first Indian woman to achieve this feat.
The London Olympic bronze-medallist has won a staggering 14 international titles in her glorious career, and most recently she became the first Indian woman to make the finals of the prestigious All England Championships in Manchester.
Saina Nehwal enters maiden India Open final
Nehwal on Saturday reached her maiden women’s singles final of the $275,000 India Open Superseries by defeating Japan’s Yui Hashimoto in straight games at the Siri Fort Sports Complex here.
She came out on top in only 44 minutes to overcome the unseeded Japanese 21-15, 21-11.
The top seed exacted revenge from Yui for her second round loss exactly two years ago here in the same tournament. It was the only time the two met previously.
She will next take on 2013 winner and former World Champion Ratchanok Intanon in the final on Sunday. Earlier in the day, the Thai overcame reigning World Champion Carolina Marin of Spain 21-19, 21-23, 22-20 in a marathon battle that lasted an hour and 24 minutes.
Later, the World No.37 proved no match for Saina as the Indian won 42 of the 68 points played in the match. Though the Japanese showed spirit at the start of the contest, she could not persist with the high level of agility and speed to match Saina.
The second game was totally dominated by the Olympic bronze medallist as she reached 20-6 in no time. Saina appeared a little lax to waste five matchpoints before sealing the tie on her sixth attempt.