December 27, 2016 7:01:32 pm
Badminton in India in the past twelve months can be, rather harshly, summed up by saying that it was a year of PV Sindhu and the rest. The rest were mostly kept abreast with multiple injuries across the board to the likes of Saina Nehwal and Parupalli Kashyap.
Prior to the Rio Olympics, Sindhu had won two bronze medals at the World Championships but she was never really the front runner for a medal. She played second fiddle in the women’s badminton in the country behind Saina. But as things transpired, rather miraculously, she would get past a variety of opponents, with different style of play and a much different repertoire, to make her way into the gold medal match. In this process, she would edge Tai Tzu Ying (Chinese Taipei), Wang Yihan (China) and Nozomi Okuhara (Japan). However her surging run was stopped by Carolina Marin of Spain who would bag her first gold medal. For Sindhu, though, it would prove to be a historic feat as she would go past Saina’s best of bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics to become the fifth woman to win an Olympic medal for India.
More importantly, this win would act as a morale and confidence booster for Sindhu to improve her results on the tour too. She would go on to pick up her very first Super Series title in China and then reach the final of the Hong Kong Super Series event to have her winning streak curtailed. On the up with some top notch results, Sindhu would rise in the rankings and qualify for the year ending BWF Finals Super Series in Dubai – which only the top eight players qualify for. There she would reach the semi-finals, beating Marin on the way, but come up short. Despite this, it would be a remarkable 2016 for her.
This in sharp contrast to a disappointing 2015 for the tall and lanky Pullela Gopichand protege who had suffered a stress fracture in her foot to miss much of the season.
One would hope for a remarkable turn in fortunes for Saina too who had recovered from an Achilles Tendon injury in the year only to pick up a knee injury which severely hampered her Olympics showing. The injury would hamper her otherwise smooth movement and force an early exit from Rio de Janeiro. The former World No 1 would immediately go under the knife and in the closing stages of the year, has returned to action but short of match practice, she wouldn’t get the desired winning results as she would have liked.
Before the big event of the year – the Olympics – Sindhu would also win the Malaysia Masters Grand Prix Gold and Saina would win the Australian Open Super Series.
With injury forcing Saina out of action post the Olympics for an extended period, she would drop out of top-10 in the rankings for the first time since 2009.
Moving on to the men’s side of things, it was a forgettable year for the six men inside the top 50 of the rankings. There were no notable wins with Kidambi Srikanth unable to emulate his heroics and brilliance of the past two years. He would win the Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold at the start of the year but wouldn’t be able to make much of a mark in Rio or at any other major tournament in the year.
If title wins and progress into the final days of the tournament are any indication, Sourabh Verma had the best year from the men’s fold. He would reach the final three times but each time he would finish second best except when he won the Chinese Taipei Masters Grand Prix.
However the top result from the men’s department would go to Sameer Verma who would make his first Super Series final when he reached the showdown contest of the Hong Kong Open. On the way, he would stun third seed Jan O Jorgensen. Speaking of upsets, B Sai Praneeth would also create one when he would beat Lee Chong Wei in the first round of All England Open.
In doubles, Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy would become the first men’s doubles pairing from India to compete at the Olympics but other than that, there was very little to take home. The popular combination of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa would call time on their partnership with both going for newer partners, after the Olympics, with results not going as desired. Gutta has for now said she would play mixed doubles without naming a partner. Ponnappa, on the other hand, has already begun participating alongside Sikki Reddy.
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