Feature

India's badminton stars: When did they first win a major title?

Over the years, Srikanth, Sindhu and Saina have emerged as the biggest medal hope for India across competitions and brought home several laurels

By Samrat Chakraborty ·

India has produced its share of world-class badminton players over the years. The current crop of top shuttlers from the country are all capable of their moments, as they have proved time and time again over the last decade and more.

Over the years, Kidambi Srikanth, Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu, B Sai Praneeth and Parupalli Kashyap have emerged as the country's top players, shining at the international level. They will also be India's prime contenders to bag a spot at the Tokyo Olympics and compete for a medal.

As it is, a first title is always special and these five brightest stars had their way of announcing themselves in the international arena.

Let us turn back the clock and look at their first major title win.

Kidambi Srikanth

Kidambi Srikanth won the Thailand Open in 2013

Former World No.1 Kidambi Srikanth has emerged as one of India's best male shuttlers in recent times. He has recorded 230 wins and 116 losses in the men's singles event across competitions with 10 major BWF (Badminton World Federation) titles to his name.

The Guntur-born player was quick to get into his stride and grow through the ranks. While his first major title was at the Maldives International Challenge in 2012, his maiden BWF Grand Prix title came at the Thailand Open in 2013 with a win over local favourite Boonsak Ponsana in the final.

Incidentally, Srikanth won the title after upsetting the Thai player in straight sets.

His stature in the international arena only continued to grow in 2014 as he shocked two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan in the final of the China Open to become the first Indian to win a Super Series Premier men's title.

Saina Nehwal 

Saina Nehwal in action at the Barcelona Spain Masters  

From being unseeded at her maiden Olympic appearance in Beijing 2008 to becoming the top-ranked women's singles player in the world - Saina Nehwal has achieved several heights in her glittering badminton career.

Nehwal has recorded 433 wins and 196 losses in women's singles. She has 24 career titles to her name thus far. But it all began at the 2006 Philippines Open where she beat Julia Wong Pei Xian of Malaysia 21–15, 22–20 to bag her maiden senior international title.

In 2009, Nehwal went on to become the first Indian to clinch the BWF Super Series title by lifting the Indonesian Open title after overcoming Wang Lin from China in the final 12–21, 21–18, 21–9.

The London 2012 bronze medallist also has three Commonwealth Games gold medals to her name.

PV Sindhu

PV Sindhu

2016 Olympic silver medallist PV Sindhu has established herself well and truly on the international arena. She entered the international arena at the age of 14 and since then has won 326 women's singles matches while losing 139.

While she won 4 BWF international challenge titles in 2011, Sindhu bagged her maiden BWF Grand Prix Gold title in Malaysia in 2013 after getting the better of Juan Gu of Singapore in a summit clash that lasted for an hour and 11 minutes.

Sindhu, however, well and truly announced herself with her stunning run at BWF World Championships in 2013. She was seeded tenth in the main draws and opened her campaign by beating Japanese Kaori Imabeppu in 1st round in the first round.

She later overcame the defending champion and second-seeded Wang Yihan of China to enter the quarter-finals. The Hyderabad-player later defeated Wang Shixian to reach the semifinals. In the process, she became the only second Indian medalist in the singles event at the BWF World Championships since Prakash Padukone's bronze in 1983.

Sindhu, however, failed to go all the way as she lost the semi-final against eventual champion Ratchanok Intanon.

Parupalli Kashyap

Parupalli Kashyap

Parupalli Kashyap is a product of the famous Gopichand Badminton Academy. He attained his best career ranking of 6 in April 2013 and has three titles to his name.

Kashyap's first major title came in 2012 at the Syed Modi International badminton championships at Lucknow (a BWF Grand Prix event). He beat Thailand's Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk in a tightly-fought contest that needed a deciding set.

However, Kashyap rose to prominence after this brilliant run at the London 2012 Olympics. He won all the group stage matches, including an upset over Nguyen Tien Minh. His golden run, however, came to an end against top seed Lee Chong Wei in the quarter-finals but in the process, became the first Indian to reach this stage at Olympics men's singles event.

B. Sai Praneeth

B Sai Praneeth in action at the Badminton Asia Team Championship

Hyderabad-based B. Sai Praneeth came to the fore when he defeated he outclassed 2003 All England Champion Muhammad Hafiz Hashim of Malaysia at the 2013 Thailand Open Grand Prix Gold tournament in the first round.

The 28-year-old's first BWF international challenge title came at the Iran Fajr International where he defeated Iran's Mohammadreza Kheradmandi in straight games. He also won the men's double title with his partner Pranav Chopra in the same event.

However, his first BWF Super Series win came at the 2017 Singapore Open where he beat his compatriot Kidambi Srikanth in the summit clash. It also made him the fourth Indian to grab a superseries title after Saina Nehwal, Srikanth Kidambi, and P.V.Sindhu.