The last week of April 2015 was stupendous for Indian women sporting icons.
On one hand, you had tennis super star Sania Mirza achieve the coveted individual world No 1 spot in doubles which she holds. Then there was badminton queen Saina Nehwal’s dream run at the India Open Super Series which gave her the much-deserved numero uno rank in the Badminton World Federation charts. It was historic that two Indian women were on top of the world in their respective sports thanks to sheer determination and hard work over the years.
The icing on the cake is the government decision to award both Sania and Saina the Padma Bhushan, the third-highest civilian award in the country after the Bharat Ratna and Padma Vibhushan.
Both players from Hyderabad have previously been awarded the Arjuna and the Padma Shri. While Saina received the Arjuna in 2009 and the Padma Shri the next year; the government conferred Sania with the sports prize in 2004 and the Padma Shri in 2006. They have both received the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna too, the shuttler in 2009-10 and the tennis player last year amidst a huge controversy.
While Sania has been on the winning bandwagon since August last year, Saina is currently the world No 2, behind Spanish world champion Carolina Marin. Both had a fantastic 2015 season where they scaled great heights.
After becoming world No 1, Sania now shares the spot with her doubles partner, Martina Hingis of Switzerland. The Indo-Swiss combine are also the best team in the world and are on a 33-match winning spree, the best run in women’s tennis since 1990.
They have two Grand Slams and the year-ender title in Singapore to their names, along with 11 tour titles. They have stumped opponents as they try to figure out the success behind ‘SanTina’, the pair has not lost a match since August.
Sania is currently playing at the first Grand Slam of the year, the Australian Open, where she and Hingis have made the quarters of the women’s doubles. She’ll also play the second round of the mixed doubles with Ivan Dodig of Croatia. “It’s a truly humbling experience to be honoured with the Padma Bhushan and will serve to inspire me to earn more laurels for my country,” said Saina.
After Saina’s great run at home, she briefly lost the No 1 spot but regained it again for a short spell. The 2012 Olympic bronze medallist added the world championships silver to her resume, the best result for an Indian, along with the runners-up medal at the prestigious All England meet.
Currently recovering from an injury and getting ready for the Rio Games, Saina thanked her fans after getting to know of the award. “So happy and honoured to get the prestigious Padma Bhushan award. Thank u everyone for the support and wishes,” she tweeted.