It was the year which saw the Indians shuttle to glory, literally. Indian badminton never had it so good — Saina Nehwal won the London Olympics bronze, Parupalli Kashyap became the first ever Indian shuttler to enter the Olympics men’s quarterfinals, Pusarla Venkata Sindhu won the Asian Youth (under-19) title besides a couple of outstanding results in major events.
The world rankings of Sindhu (No. 19) and Kashyap (No. 14) are just another indicator of their growing stature.
At the start of 2012 the scene looked somewhat grim with Saina struggling to regain her form. Once she won the Swiss Open title the confidence was back and so was her game.
She soon won the Indonesian Open beating Liu Xuerui and the Thai Open getting the better of three-time World junior champion Ratchanok Inthanon. Just the kind of wins she was desperately looking for in the build-up to the London Games.
To the delight of millions of her fans, Saina became the first-ever Indian shuttler to win an Olympic medal (though by default when her opponent conceded the play-off match because of an injury).
Later on she won the Denmark Open Super Series and reached the finals of the French Open and the prestigious BWF Super Series.
“With the huge load of that Olympic medal off my shoulder, I am more relaxed, confident and a better stroke-player now,” said Saina while stressing that 2012 was her best year by all means.
In the dock for skipping the Syed Modi GP, Saina insisted that she was not ready to aggravate her troublesome knee ahead of a hectic schedule.
For someone who is touted by national coach Pullela Gopi Chand as the next best bet after Saina, 17-year-old Sindhu threw enough hints of her remarkable rise winning the Asian Youth (under-19) title, and then shocking Olympic gold medallist Liu Xuerui in the China Open Super Series quarterfinals.
She also reached the Malaysian Open Super semifinals but had to miss the World juniors because of an injury. She capped off the year as a finalist in the Syed Modi GP which should augur well not only for her but also the sport.
In men’s section, the cynosure of all was the gifted Kashyap, who braves frequent bouts of asthma and opponents with equal ease. Semifinal appearances in the India Open Super Series and Indonesian Open Super Series before the London Games quarterfinals loss to World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei were proof that he meant business.
The Syed Modi GP title, his maiden GP title, was the icing on the cake of what has been a thoroughly memorable year for him.
However, the disappointment was the flamboyant women’s doubles pair of Gutta Jwala and Ashwini Ponnappa, which faded away after its World championship bronze last year. With Jwala taking a long break after the Olympics, it was difficult for Ashwini to make an impact on the international stage.
Looking to the future, young guns like Guru Sai Dutt, winner of the Tata Open, and Pratul Joshi, who shocked former Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat in the first round of the Syed Modi GP, are on the wings waiting to grab the big opportunities.
The future too looks good what with the $1 million Indian Badminton League also launched.