It was Nehwal's first Olympics and the aggressive player had beaten fourth seed Wang Chen of Hong Kong in a thrilling last-16 clash.
In the subsequent months Nehwal won a Grand Prix event in Taiwan as well as the Commonwealth Youth Games gold and the world junior crown.
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She also made the semi-finals of the China Masters Super Series in September and the World Super Series Masters Finals in Kuala Lumpur last month and was a quarter-finalist in the Hong Kong Super Series in November.
"This year my target is to break into the top five," said Nehwal, who was kicking off the new year at the Malaysian Open, the first leg of the 2009 Super Series, which was starting on Tuesday.