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 here.
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 thanks 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.
Saina plays Japan’s Yui Hashimoto in the second semifinal but the Indian ace will be No. 1 irrespective of her result today.
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.
If Saina loses in semifinals, she will finish with 75761 points after pocketing 6420 for reaching the last four.
Carolina, on the other hand, will gain 6420 points for her semifinal finish here which will take her total points to tally to 73618.
The injury-ravaged Saina, who admitted that it is “tough to maintain rankings”, said she remains intent on achieving consistency.
“It is tough to be in top-five for the last seven years. I hope to maintain it for some more time. I feel good. At the same time I have to work hard everyday, train everyday. It is too tiring. I want to be the best. It is my personal choice, fight against the top players. I want to be one of the top players in the world,” she asserted.
“Everyone dreams of winning World Championship, Olympics and I am one of them. It is not that right now, I want everything. I want to be a little cool and relaxed and enjoy my game. It’s my job and I want to enjoy it,” she added.
The Hyderabad-based player has several firsts to her credit in Indian badminton. She was the first to be a junior world champion, besides being the first to clinch a Super Series title.
Initially groomed by former All England champion Pullela Gopichand, Saina is currently under the tutelage of former national champion Vimal Kumar.
The path-breaker was awarded the country’s highest sporting honour — the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna award — in 2010.