Badminton Life

Nehwal Wins World Junior Title

India's rising star Saina Nehwal added to her growing reputation as a future champion when she won the World Junior Championships women's singles title in Pune, India over the weekend.

The top seed steamrollered through a gruelling 128-strong draw featuring six matches to enhance her reputation as the world's leading teenager.

The 18-year-old never dropped a single game as she defeated Japan's Sayaka Sato 21-9, 21-18 in the final, which lasted only 25 minutes.

During her run she beat players from all parts of the world, starting with Turkey's Ozge Bayrak in the opening round.

She then cut down Hong Kong's Tse Ying-suet, Taiwan's Hung Shih-han and Indonesian Lindaweni Fanetri before taking on China's third-fourth seed Wang Shixian in the semi-final.

It was her hardest match of the tournament but Nehwal still managed to pull off a fairly comfortable 22-20, 21-12 victory.

Lifted by the home support, Nehwal became the first Indian to win a world junior title.

She was quoted in the Indian media as saying: "It was amazing to play before the home crowd. Watching them enjoy my success has increased my appetite to win more titles."

Ranked 11th in the world, Nehwal is coached by India's former All England men's singles champion Pullela Gopichand.

The world junior title was the culmination of a fine run on the international circuit in which she won her second Grand Prix title in September and also won the Commonwealth Youth Games crown.

Sato, seeded in the nine-16 bracket, had caused an upset in the third round when she beat China's second seed, Li Xuerui 15-21, 21-16, 21-9.

She then overcame compatriot Ayaka Takahashi and Thailand's Porntip Buranaprasertsuk to reach the final.

India also had a strong run in the men's singles with RMV Gurusaidutt reaching the semi-finals.

Apart from Gopichand, another ex All England champion, Prakash Padukone, is using his academies in Bangalore and Pune to groom youngsters for future success.

Anup Sridhar and Chetan Anand are among the senior men's players who are expected to carry the flag for India at the Commonwealth Games while Nehwal is leading the way for women.

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