Saina carrying India’s hopes at World Badminton in London

August 7th, 2011 - 8:07 pm ICT by IANS  

London, Aug 7 (IANS) Saina Nehwal would carry India’s hopes at the World Badminton Championships that begin at Wembley Indoor Arena here Monday.

Saina, seeded sixth, has battled a niggling ankle injury for most part of the season. But after a month-long break, she is fit and raring to go.

She can draw strength from the fact that despite being not at her best, she managed to hang on to the top rung. She won the Swiss Open Grand Prix Gold and finished runner-up in the Malaysian Open and Indonesia Open Super Series Premier.

There was also talk of her parting with coach Pullela Gopichand who has steered her international career, but she is back working with the former All England champion.

The 21-year-old will be making her fifth appearance in the Worlds. In 2009 at Hyderabad, she made it to the quarterfinal despite being down with chicken pox a few days before the championship. She exited from the same stage in Paris last year, losing to China’s Wang Shixian, who is the top-seed in London.

Saina has got a bye in the first round and will play the winner of the match between Indonesian Adrianti Firdasari and Chloe Magee of Ireland.

If she clears the second round, she is likely to face 14th seed Pui Yin Yip of Hong Kong in the pre-quarters.

“I’m fit and raring to go. I have worked hard on a few areas of my game which needed improvement. I’m happy with my training,” said Saina.

“The draw is not very tough but it is also not easy. I have beaten them before, but it is World Championships and everyone will give their best. I too have to be at my best to beat them,” Saina said.

In the men’s singles, Parupalli Kashyap, ranked 28, will have an easy opening round against German Dieter Domke.

Another Indian, Ajay Jayaram will have a tough first round against 15th seed Kenichi Tago of Japan.

In mixed doubles, Jwala Gutta and V.Diju have been seeded 16th and they have a bye in the first round.

The women’s doubles pair of Gutta and Aswhini Ponappa will face American Eva Lee and Paula Lynn Obanana in the first round. If they move to the second round, they will face second-seeded Chinese Wen Hsing Cheng and Yu Chin Chien.

In men’s doubles, Rupesh Kumar and Thomas Sanave will take on German Michael Fuchs and Oliver Roth.

Asian powerhouses China will be looking for an encore of Paris where they won all the five titles.

Malaysia are led by men’s singles world No. One Lee Chong Wei, who is hungry for his first world title, and is expected to give them a tough challenge in some of the categories.

But despite their prowess in the sport, Malaysia have never won a title at the worlds in any discipline, dating back to the tournament’s inception in 1977.

Chong Wei, dominant in Super Series and at the All England in Birmingham, has the game but China’s Lin Dan remains as ever a huge stumbling block.

With the retirement of their leading women’s singles player Wong Mew Choo, Malaysian hopes rest firmly on the shoulders of Chong Wei and the men’s doubles pairing of Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong.

Chong Wei will be in action Monday against unseeded Thai Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk. Lin has to wait until Tuesday for his first round match with Lithuania’s Kestutis Navickas.

The tournament, the first major badminton event at the revamped Wembley since the All England moved to Birmingham in 1994, is also acting as a high-class dress rehearsal for next year’s Olympics.

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