Saina Nehwal, the former world No 1, is not in the best of forms but remains one of India's biggest hopes for the 2018 Commonwealth Games (CWG) at Gold Coast, Australia, starting on April 4. For more than a decade, Saina has been India's star on the badminton circuit, winning titles and making the nation proud. Ahead of Rio Olympics 2016, Saina was in the form of her life but owing to a knee injury, bowed out of the mega-event in the group stages and since then, has gone through a surgery, spent time off the circuit and recuperated but it has been uphill task for her to get back to the top of the world.
Saina first came into prominence in 2006 as a 16-year-old when she became the first Indian woman and the youngest from Asia to win a four-star tournament -- the Philippines Open. Thereafter in 2008, she became the first Indian to win the World Junior Badminton Championships by defeating ninth seed Sayaka Sato of Japan 21-9, 21-18.
Over the years, Saina has given India a lot of reason to celebrate. Saina has won 10 Super Series titles in her career and is the most successful Indian on the Super Series circuit. She remains the only Indian to win at least one medal in each of the BWF major individual events and the first to win a Super Series title. She is the first Indian female to reach an Olympic quarter-final (at the 2008 Beijing Games), which she went on to better at London four years later and she is the only Indian female shuttler to reach the pinnacle of world rankings.
Since her surgery in 2016, Saina has largely struggled to hit her peak form and has repeatedly mentioned the need to play more and build her knee muscles all over again. Saina marked her return to international circuit with a Malaysia Masters win in 2017.
Despite all the trouble, Saina won the bronze medal at the World Badminton Championships last year and began 2018 with an Indonesia Masters silver medal.
In absence of Saina, PV Sindhu has become India's star but the former remains the nation's first female badminton icon.
In 2018 Commonwealth Games, the former World No 1 will look to shine once more at the stage where she stood at the top in 2010 in New Delhi.