India confident of promotion to Group II in Sudirman Cup

May 7th, 2009 - 6:02 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, May 7 (IANS) Saina Nehwal is aware that she has a key role to play as India fight for a promotion to Group II in the Sudirman Cup badminton, that gets underway in Guangzhou, China, from Sunday.
As someone who always revels under pressure, World No. 10 Saina is undettered by the expectations and said she was confident that the team will break into Group II for the first time since the World mixed team badminton championship started in 1989.

“I know that I am a key player for the team and they will be looking up to me to win the singles. I am prepared for it,” Saina told IANS.

India fielded an under-strength side in 2007 as the controversy surrounding national camps kept top players like Chetan Anand, Jwala Gutta and Shruti Kurian out of the championship. India managed well with the depleted side and came close to promotion, but lost to France in the play-off final in Scotland.

Saina’s international career had taken off in 2007. In these two years, she has beaten the top players with regularity and reached the quarterfinal in the Olympics.

“Last time I played in the competition for the first time. After two years I have gained experience and have some good results under my belt. As I said, the expectations of the team will be high from me. But there will be no pressure. It feels good that the team is looking up to you to perform,” she said.

India has been clubbed with Scotland, Ukraine, Australia, Sweden, the US, Czech Republic, and Bulgaria in Group 3.

Each tie will have five matches — men’s and women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles and mixed doubles.

“The team is in good shape. We have prepared well and are hopeful of moving to the next stage,” Saina said.

National coach Pullela Gopichand, too, is upbeat about India’s chances.

“We have a great chance to move to Group II. The players are experienced and they understand their responsibilities.”

In women’s singles, Saina is one of the most feared players in international circuit. World No.14 Chetan Anand has loads of experience in men’s singles. The mixed doubles pair of V. Diju and Jwala Gutta has performed exceptionally well in last couple of months.

In men’s double’s Sanave Thomas and Rupesh Kumar, on their day, can upset the best.

India’s only worry is the women’s doubles pairing after Jwala Gutta and Shruti Kurian parted ways.

Jwala and Shruti were among the top pairs in the world but have fallen apart due to personal differences.

Both of them may come back for one last time for the country’s sake, but Gopichand could try out a scratch combination as well.

Shruti partnered with Aparna Balan in the training sessions in Hyderabad and Gopichand is likely to give them a chance.

“We will have to see the situation. It (the pairing) depends on the opponent and the position that we will be in.”

The team is leaving for Guangzhou Thursday night.

Team: Men — Chetan Anand, Arvind Bhat, Rupesh Kumar, Sanave Thomas, V. Diju, K. Tharun, and Arun Vishnu.

Women: Saina Nehwal, Aparna Balan, Sayali Gokhale, Jwala Gutta and Shruti Kurien.

Chief coach: Pullela Gopichand.

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