Saina looks to repeat CWG success at Indian Open
With the Chinese deciding to skip the event, stage is set for the top-seeded Indian to sizzle.
New Delhi: All eyes will be on Saina Nehwal as she returns to the Siri Fort sport complex looking to recreate her Commonwealth Games gold medal success at the Indian Open Super Series starting here on Tuesday.
The 21-year-old ace has been troubled by an ankle injury for the past few months but Saina assured she is fit to lead the Indian challenge in the USD 200,000 event, the first ever super series in India.
"There were some problems with my ankle; there was a little fluid but it is better now. It was paining during the All England and Swiss Open but I have taken tablets and I am fit to play," Saina said.
With the Chinese deciding to skip the event because of prior engagements, the stage is set for the top-seeded Indian to sizzle but Saina remains cautious and is not ready to lower her guard against the lower-ranked shuttlers.
"This stadium has been lucky for me and I hope to perform like I did in the Commonwealth Games. It is going to be tough even though the Chinese players are not here. Other players are also playing very well.
"Second seed Tine Baun of Denmark is also here; even the Japanese, Koreans, all have improved a lot. It is going to be a tough fight," said Saina, who takes on Ai Goto in the first round.
Aditi Mutatkar, the other Indian challenger in the women's singles, faces fourth seed Pui Yin Yip of Thailand in her tournament opener.
With women's world number one and two Wang Shixian and Wang Yihan missing in action, it will also be an opportunity for Dane Tine Baun, who is back after recovering from injury, sixth seed Ji Hyun Sung and third seed Youn Joo Bae to shine.
In the men's singles, it will be a sort of homecoming for P Kashyap, who won the Commonwealth bronze here and now spearheads Indian challenge in the tournament, where as many as 203 players, comprising 109 men and 94 women, from 16 nations will vie for top honours.
The world number 23 from India, who faces Slovekian Michal Matejka in the first round and a possible showdown with second ranked Taufik Hidayat in the next, said he is itching to beat the Indonesian after coming so close in their last three meetings.
"I have played three very close matches against him last year and each time he went ahead by playing some good strokes in the final stages. Hopefully, I will not commit the same mistake this time; I am dying to beat him," he told PTI.
Among international stars, world number one and two, Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia and Taufik of Indonesia and Peter Gade of Denmark will be seen in action.
Eighth seeded Indian pair Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa also returns to their favourite hunting ground where they won the Commonwealth gold last year.
The Indian duo got a bye in the first round and will take on the winner of Indian pair of Thulasi PC and Siki Reddy and Malaysian combo of Eei Hui Chin and Pei Tty Wong in the second.
"We have trained very hard for the last few weeks and we have been combining well. We have very good memories here and we hope to do well," said Jwala, who pulled out of the mixed doubles event after her partner V Diju decided to undergo a keyhole surgery.
Among other Indians, RMV Gurusai Dutt will face the unenviable task of taming fourth seed Boonsak Ponsana of Thailand, while Arvind Bhat will face world number 11 Sung Hwan Park of Korea, who recently won the Swiss Open title.
Anand Pawar will take on Sho Sasaki of Japan in his first round match of the men's singles.
In men's doubles, eighth seeds Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas, who have got a bye in the first round, will face the winner of Pranav Chopra and Tarun Kona and Indonesian pair of Yohanes Rendy Sugiarto and Afiat Yuris Wirawan in the second.
Aparna Balan and Prajakta Sawant will also pair up against Jung Kyung and Eun Kim Ha Na of Korea in the first round of women's doubles.
It will also be an opportunity for Indian qualifiers such as Trupti Murgunde, Neha Pandit, Sayali Gokhale, Arundhati Pantawane and PC Thulasi to make their presence felt in the qualifying round on Tuesday.
Young shuttlers HS Prannoy, Sai Praneeth B, Sourabh Verma and out-of-form Anup Sridhar will also try to make it to the main draw on Tuesday.
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