Following a series of sensational performances last year, India's golden girls Sania Mirza and Saina Nehwal have added another feather to their respective caps after being conferred the third highest civilian award - the Padma Bhushan.
Mirza, who received the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna in 2015, has been on a roll alongisde her women's doubles partner Martina Hingis. The duo won 10 titles last year and have already won two tournaments in Sydney and Brisbane this year. The Indo-Swiss pair also entered the quarterfinals of the Australian Open on 25 January.
On the other hand, Nehwal has been leading the front for India in badminton. The Olympic medallist, who was awarded Padma Shri in 2010, had a great run in 2015 to cap off an impressive year for the Indian shuttlers. She achieved the no. 1 rank in singles last year and is currently ranked second in the world.
After creating a lot of buzz with her performances early in her career, Saina Nehwal bagged her first-ever top honour in the form of Arjuna Award in 2009. The 25-year-old went on to receive the prestigious Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna in 2009 and the Padma Shri in 2010.
In 2004, Indian tennis sensation Sania Mirza won six ITF singles titles and her first WTA doubles title (Hyderabad Open) which led to the Arjuna Award. In 2006, she awarded the Padma Shri and her glorious run in 2015 made her only the second tennis player to receive the Rajiv Gandhi Khel Ratna - India's highest sporting honour.
Glory run in 2015
After teaming up with Martina Hingis in March, Sania Mirza bagged two Grand Slams and eight WTA titles to mark a splendid run in 2015. After winning the Family Circle Cup's doubles title in April, Sania became the first Indian to be ranked world no. 1 in WTA's doubles rankings. By winning Wimbledon, Sania also became the first Indian woman to win a championship at the All England Club. The pair ended the year with a 22-match winning streak.
Indian badminton's poster girl, Saina Nehwal, became the first Indian woman shuttler to reach the finals of All England Open Badminton Championships, where she lost the final to Spain's Carolina Marin. In March, she won her maiden women's singles title at the India Open Super Series and achieved the world no. 1 rank in women's singles - first Indian woman to do so. In August, she became the first Indian to win a silver medal at the World Badminton Championships after losing the final to Marin.
Sania Mirza is the highest-ranked female player ever from India, peaking at world no. 27 in singles during 2007. But, a major wrist injury forced her to give up her singles career and focus on doubles. She is the first Indian tennis player to surpass USD 1 million in career earnings (now over $5 million). She has also won five major titles, two in women's doubles and three in mixed doubles. Mirza has won a total of 14 medals (including six Gold) at Asian Games, Commonwealth Games and the Afro-Asian Games.
On the other hand, Saina Nehwal is the first Indian to win a medal in badminton at the Olympics. She achieved this feat by winning the bronze medal at the 2012 London Olympics. Nehwal is the first Indian after Prakash Padukone to achieve the no. 1 rank in world badminton. She is the first Indian to win the World Junior Badminton Championships (2008) and was also the first Indian to win a Super Series tournament (Indonesia Open in 2009).