Badminton 2016: PV Sindhu rules the courts in a sensational year for the Hyderabad shuttler
P.V. Sindhu was the flag-bearer of Indian badminton in the year 2016, as she became a household name in India since that August evening in Rio de Janeiro Olympics, where she kept the Indian Tricolour aloft with the a silver medal which is prized above every other trophy in her cabinet.
P.V. Sindhu's name was among the top trends across all online platforms in Rio and beyond, whether it was Google, Twitter or Facebook.
Newspapers and news websites had her picture on their front pages. To put it in one line, the 21-year-old Hyderabadi had a stupendous 2016, her best season till date, a year where her named defined Indian badminton.
Apart from her success this summer at the Olympic Games, she also won the prestigious China Open Superseries Premier and subsequently reached the final of Hong Kong Open Superseries which elevated her in the rankings, enabling her to participate in the year-ending BWF Superseries Finals where only the top-8 players qualify across all categories.
Though the two-time World Championship bronze medallist lost in the semis in Dubai, Sindhu defeated reigning World and Olympic champion Carolina Marin, her first victory over the Spaniard since October 2015. She had started the year well too, having won the Malaysia Masters Grand Prix Gold.
Overall, this year was a big comeback for the tall and lanky girl who missed almost half of 2015 due to a stress fracture in her foot.
India's high points in the sport do not stop there.
Sindhu's Olympic silver overshadowed the reigning queen of Indian badminton, Saina Nehwal's performance, though the star began taking small steps towards recovery as the year came to an end.
The 26-year-old started the year with a couple of niggles but recovered to reach quite a few semi-finals in Superseries and Grand Prix events, which helped her stay in the top-10 of world rankings.
The London Olympics bronze medallist reached her peak in June when she won the Australian Open Superseries, defeating two former World Champions Yihan Wang and Ratchanok Intanon on her way.
Hopes were really high from the former World No.1 at the Olympic Games but Saina disappointed when she failed to make even the knockout rounds. Later it became public knowledge that she injured herself during the Games which led to her under-par performance.
She stayed out of the circuit for the latter half of the year, which made her drop out of the top-10 for the first time since 2009, before making her comeback in China but it will take her time to rise from the ashes.
Moving on to men's singles. Though India has as many as six players in the top-50 of the world rankings, there was no notable achievement that can be mentioned.
India's top ranked player at No.13, Kidambi Srikanth, had a below average year after making it big on the circuit in the last two years.
Though he won the India Grand Prix Gold in Lucknow at the start of the year, Srikanth failed to win any major tournament. He matched the best by an Indian male shuttler when he reached the last eight stage at the Olympics but could not go beyond.
Upcoming players HS Prannoy and B Sai Praneeth also won a Grand Prix title each which helped them move up in the rankings. While Prannoy bagged the Swiss Open title in Basel, Sai Praneeth won the Canada Open in the middle of the year. He also made headlines when he defeated the legendary Lee Chong Wei in the first round of All-England Open in March.
A word should also be mentioned for Sameer Verma, who came into the limelight when he reached the final of the Hong Kong Open Superseries by defeating third seed Jan O Jorgensen.
Parupalli Kashyap and Ajay Jayaram, who have been the front-runners of Indian men's badminton in the last few years, missed out on 2016. While Jayaram failed to make an impact, a knee injury forced Kashyap to miss the Olympic Games and subsequent tournaments.
In doubles, Indian shuttlers did not really make a mark apart from the fact that Manu Attri and B. Sumeeth Reddy became the first men's doubles pair from the country to compete at the Olympics.