“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,” an overjoyed Saina said here.
Come Thursday when Badminton World Federation (BWF) revises its rankings, the Hyderabadi will become the first Indian woman to be ranked No.1.
Following Carolina Marin’s semifinal loss in the $275,000 India Open Superseries at the Siri Fort Sports Complex on Saturday, Saina’s way became clear to notch the top spot.
“I have been in the top-five for the last seven years and thrice I became No.2. I used to keep seeing Li Xuerui’s name on the top for almost one and half years. I can finally see my name there now,” said Saina, who turned 25 on March 17.
Spain’s Carolina and Saina were in the race to grab the coveted position in the absence of China’s reigning Olympic champion Li Xuerui. It is only a formality for Saina, who will overtake Xuerui to become the first non-Chinese woman to be No.1 since December 2010 when Denmark’s Tine Baun was the top ranked shuttler.
“I have taken some hard decisions to get here. I kept losing to top players all the time, in fact after last year’s World Championship, I even thought of quitting badminton. It was a very dark time in my career. People were saying ‘Saina, your career is finished’,” said the Hyderabadi.
“I then moved to Bangalore and my coach Vimal Kumar set a target of May this year to reach the No.1 rank. I did it in March itself!”
The women’s singles top seed unsurprisingly also made it into her maiden India Open final by defeating Japan’s Yui Hashimoto in a last four clash.
“I have never reached the finals of India Open before so this is a great moment for me here also. I always wanted to do well but somehow I missed reaching the finals here. It is the first time for me so I am excited,” said Saina.
Saina ended India’s 35-year long wait for a No.1 player in the sport. Legendary Prakash Padukone had gained the men’s singles No.1 ranking in 1980.