Returning to the court after more than a month, India’s ace shuttler Saina Nehwal will have to get into rhythm quickly when she begins her campaign in the World Badminton Championship starting here on Monday.
The 21-year-old, who reached the quarterfinals in the last two editions of the mega event, has been troubled by an ankle injury this year, but is completely fit now after undergoing rigorous preparation for the event.
“I have been working really hard for the last 4-5 months. There has been a lot of improvement but it will boil down to how well I adjust to the courts in London and play in the initial rounds,” said Saina.
The World No. 6 got a bye in the first round and is likely to take on Adrianti Firdasari in the second. Saina has a 2-2 record against the Indonesian.
The sixth-seeded Indian is likely to face 14th seed Pui Yin Yip of Hong Kong in the pre-quarterfinals but her acid test would be in the quarterfinals where she could meet World No. 3 Wang Xin of China.
Xin had beaten Saina thrice but the Indian won their last encounter at the Sudirman Cup in May. If Saina gets past Xin, she might play World No. 2 Wang Yihan in the semifinals.
“The draw is not very tough but it is not easy either. It is 50-50. I have played these players in the past and won also but in the World Championship I still need to play very well to beat them,” Saina said.
In the men’s singles, P. Kashyap and Ajay Jayaram will lead the challenge in the prestigious tournament, which is also a dress rehearsal for the London Olympics next year.
Jayaram, who is playing his first World Championship, will be up against 15th seed Kenichi Tago of Japan in the opening round, and the World No. 35 is confident of a good performance in the event.
World No. 28 Kashyap will open his campaign at the Wembley Arena against German Dieter Domke, whom he has beaten thrice in the past.
If he gets past Domke, he is likely to meet seventh seed Tien Minh Nguyen, who beat him during the US Open last month.
But Kashyap has defeated the Vietnamese twice in the past. Tien, though, has improved since then, reaching seventh in the world rankings.
“It is a big event and everybody would be well prepared, dreaming to play well. I don’t want to think about the second round or third round. For me, first round is the only thing which I am focusing on right now,” said Kashyap, who won the Commonwealth Games bronze medal last year in Delhi.
“I have seen the draw, it is okay. It is not the toughest I have faced but also not the easiest either. There are some good players, I have beaten them in the past so ideally I should reach at least the quarterfinals, but it is a big event and I don’t want to think too much,” he added.
India’s top doubles team of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa will open their campaign against the Malaysian pair of Eva Lee and Paula Lynn Obanana in the doubles competition.
V. Diju will return to international badminton after recovering from a back surgery and will pair up with Jwala in the mixed doubles competition.
The 16th seeded Indian pair got a bye in the first round and will take on the winners of the Malaysian duo of Jien Guo Ong and Sook Chin Chong and Min Chun Liao and Hsiao Huan Chen of Chinese Taipei in the second round.
The Indian men’s doubles pair of Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas will take on Germany’s Michael Fuchs and Oliver Roth. If they get past the Germans, they will face tough opponents in eighth seeds Alvent Yulianto Chandra and Hendra Aprida Gunawan of Indonesia in the second round.
India’s young pair of Pranav Chopra and Tarun Kona, playing their first World Championship, will take on Hung Ling Chen and Yu Lang Lin of Chinese Taipei on Monday. Hindu