The story till then
Saina Nehwal came into national prominence at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing. Having just turned 18, she stunned world No. 5 Wang Chen of Hong Kong on her way to the quarter-final. Though she lost that match in three games, the result catapulted Nehwal to unprecedented success for a female Indian badminton player. Over the next seven years she clinched several Super Series titles as well as a bronze medal at the 2012 Olympics in London to become one of the top players in the world.
Her rise to the top spot in the rankings fittingly came at home in April 2015, when she clinched the India Open Grand Prix title in New Delhi, beating Spain's Carolina Marin in the final. Marin had beaten her in the final of the All-England Championships a month earlier, a match Nehwal controlled for large parts before letting it slip away. On April 2, 2015, when the new world rankings were unveiled, she was the first Indian woman to get to world No. 1.
"It is still unbelievable. Let me pinch myself! It will probably sink in only when I see my name on the top of the ranking list."
- Saina Nehwal
"When you see that desire to excel that only a few have, like Roger Federer or Rafael Nadal, they have achieved so much but still want to be the best. I see that drive in Saina."
- Vimal Kumar, Nehwal's coach
The story since
Although Nehwal wasn't able to retain her No. 1 status for much longer, she remains one of the world's foremost players. She won her first world championship silver in the months following her rise to the top spot, but subsequently was waylaid by an ankle injury. Forced to take the first three months of 2016 off, she returned to the circuit in March at the All-England Championships. Though her ranking has fallen to No. 6, she has shown glimpses of returning to her best form, winning her tenth Super Series title recently at the Australian Open. She will be among India's leading contenders for a medal at the Rio Olympics in August.