India Open 2017

As two of the very best badminton players on the planet, the on-court rivalry between Indian stars P.V. Sindhu and Saina Nehwal has hit new heights over the last 12 months.

Continually a world top ten player since 2009, Nehwal remains the only Indian to have medalled at every BWF major individual event, including the Olympic Games and World Championships.

Add to that becoming the first Indian female player to ever achieve world number one, and it’s easy to see why 2015 YONEX All England finalist Nehwal is credited with boosting the popularity of the sport in her home country.

But come 2013, a new girl was on the block in the form of Sindhu, bursting onto the international scene with World Championship bronze before winning a medal of the same colour the following year.

More honours followed with Commonwealth Games, Uber Cup and Asian Games bronze, before Sindhu became the first Indian woman to ever win Olympic silver at the Rio 2016 Games – and only the second to ever medal, after Nehwal’s bronze at London 2012.

20170331_1807_IndiaOpen2017_BPYL6495

Their achievements have meant the duo – who both reached the quarter-final stage of the 2017 YONEX All England – have been forced to share the limelight of late, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, according to Indian national badminton coach Pullela Gopichand.

“If it helps their performance get better, I am happy,” he said.

“We have the World Championships coming up. That will be a good tournament to win.

“Every year, the World Championships and the All England will be the two most prized positions along with the other Superseries events.”

Having missed out on the medals at her third Olympic Games last summer, Nehwal has experienced mixed success ever since.

After winning the Victor Far East Malaysia Masters back in January, the 27-year-old has not progressed past the last eight stage at any tournament since.

But Gopichand is confident Nehwal will be back to her best soon enough, and giving Sindhu a run for her money once more.

“Saina has had some good performances and I hope she comes back strongly.

“There is still time [before Tokyo 2020]. It’s been a tough journey until now and it will get tougher because the benchmarks are higher.

“I hope that we will be able to achieve better results next time.”