Saina Nehwal in numbers: From prodigy to second wind via challenging the Chinese

In 2009, Saina Nehwal became only the fifth non-Chinese player to win a women's singles Superseries title. Gonzalo Arroyo Moreno/Getty Images for Falcon

On April 2, 2015, Saina Nehwal scripted history by becoming the first Indian female badminton player -- and just the second overall after Prakash Padukone in 1980 -- to be ranked World No. 1. To date, she remains the only Indian woman to make it to the top spot. Here's a look at her storied career in numbers:

Teenage phenom: 2006-08

A prodigiously talented teenager, Saina showed an early knack for setting new benchmarks and taking Indian badminton into previously uncharted territory.

A series of firsts

* Saina started playing on the senior circuit in 2006 and achieved success early when she triumphed at the Philippines Open, becoming the first Indian woman to win a four-star tournament. Notably, she was the 86th seed.

* Having finished runner-up to Wang Yihan, a fellow all-time great, at the 2006 World Junior Championships, Saina became the first Indian to win the tournament in 2008, defeating Sayaka Sato 21-9, 21-18 in the final. She remains the only Indian to win the tournament.

* Before that, she had become the first Indian badminton player to reach the quarterfinals at the Olympics (in Beijing, in August 2008). She defeated the fourth seed Wang Chen, silver medallist at the 2007 World Championships, in the third round before losing to Maria Kristin Yulianti in the last eight. The first Indian ever to qualify for the year-ending Superseries Finals, she was also the first from the country to reach the semi-finals of the tournament.

China vs Saina: 2009-12


Saina became only the fifth non-Chinese player -- and the first Indian -- to win a women's singles Superseries title when she triumphed at the Indonesia Open in 2009.


That win marked the start of Saina becoming a serious challenger to the domination of Chinese players -- she went on to win five more Superseries titles until the end of 2012. Only Wang Yihan (14) and Wang Shixian (eight) won more than Saina in the four-year period between 2009 to 2012, while Wang Xin was tied-third with Saina.


Therefore, it was unsurprising that Wang Yihan, Saina and Wang Xin finished second, third and fourth respectively at the 2012 London Olympics, where Saina became the second Indian woman to medal at the Games, after Karnam Malleswari.


Saina won women's singles gold at the 2010 Commonwealth Games -- again the first Indian woman to do so.

Best in the world: 2013-15


From the start of the 2014 Australian Open to the end of the same event in 2016, Saina won four titles. In that period, she was one of the two best players in the world, along with Carolina Marin. Her tally of four titles during that time was only exceeded by Marin (five). The biggest achievement of Saina's career came when she became World No. 1 after winning the India Open in 2015.


That year, she also became the first Indian woman to make the final of the two biggest tournaments -- the All England Open and the World Championships. She lost both those matches to Marin and hasn't reached the final of either since.

Career-threatening injury: 2016

Saina was only seeded fifth at the Rio Olympics but -- based on her form over the Olympic cycle -- was one of three favourites along with Marin and defending champion Li Xuerui. However, she exited in the group stage after losing to World No. 61 Marija Ulitina. Upon returning, she had to undergo surgery on her knee. The surgeon who operated on her was surprised she even managed to step on the court in Rio.

Second wind: 2017-18


At the World Championships in 2017, Saina lost in the semis to eventual champion Nozomi Okuhara, but became just the second Indian after PV Sindhu to win two Worlds medals.

Also, 2

The year 2017 brought to an end Saina's remarkable streak of having reached at least one Superseries semi-final every year since 2008. Saina was one of only two women's singles players, the other being Wang Yihan, to achieve that feat.

3, 2, 1

While Saina did not win a single BWF title in 2018, she saved her best for the big tournaments, winning gold at the Commonwealth Games, where she defeated the reigning Olympic and Worlds silver medallist Sindhu in the final, and bronze at the Asian Games and Asian Championships. Her three medals (all bronzes) are also the most by an Indian at the Asian Championships.

Saina became only the second woman after Helen Troke to win two singles golds at the Commonwealth Games.

She also became the first Indian woman to win a singles medal in badminton at the Asian Games.

Endgame? 2019-20

Saina lost in the first round in three of the five tournaments she has played this year and slipped to 20th in the world rankings, her lowest in a decade. Even as it looks unlikely that Saina might recapture anything close to her best form again, here are a few numbers that show the consistency and longevity that make her one of the best players of all time:


No woman has spent more weeks in the top 10 of the BWF World Rankings since the beginning of 2010 than Saina. She is also one of only two players aged 30 or above who are currently in the top 50 of the BWF women's singles world rankings.


Saina reached the quarterfinals at each of the eight World Championships held between 2009 and 2018 -- the only singles player to do so. Saina also reached the quarterfinals in every edition of the All England Open from 2010 to 2017 -- again the lone singles player to do so in that period.


Number of singles Superseries titles won by Saina over the course of her career. Only four women have more: Wang Yihan (20), Li Xuerui (14), Tai Tzu Ying (12) and Wang Shixian (12).


Saina is the only Indian player to medal at the Olympics and World Championships, and also reach the final of the All England Open.


Only three women have more Superseries, Grand Prix and World Tour titles than Saina. Her total of 20 is exceeded by Wang Yihan (27), Tai Tzu Ying (25) and Li Xuerui (24).