Fourth seed Saina Nehwal, who is India’s brightest medal prospect, is placed in Group ‘E’ of the women’s singles draw of the 2012 Olympics. The draws were conducted in London on Monday. The 21-year-old Saina, who left for London via New Delhi on Monday evening along with other badminton team members, is drawn to meet fifth seed Tine Baun of Denmark in the quarterfinals before meeting top seed Wang Yihan of China in the semifinals.
Saina has to play Sabrina Jaquet of Switzerland and Lianne Tan in her group. The winner of Group ‘E’ meets winner of Group ‘F’ in the round of 16. Group ‘F’ has 14th seed Yao Jie (Netherlands), Ragna Ingolfdottir and Akvil Stapusaityte. Saina, in all probability, will clash with Jie, who is expected to top her group before a possible clash with Baun or Sayaka Sato (Japan) in the last-eight stage.
Coach Pullela Gopichand said the draw was a challenging one for Saina. “ But she has prepared well and we expect her to perform well in the Olympics,’’ said Gopichand.
Saina exuded confidence. “I have worked hard in the last few weeks. I’m ready for the Olympics,’’ said Saina before departing for the big event. She said she was happy with the draw too. “I have to play my natural game,’’ she added.
Second seed Wang Xin and third seed Li Xuerui, both of China, are in the bottom half of the draw.
In the men’s singles, Parupalli Kashyap is in Group ‘D’ which has 10th seed Nguyen Tien Minh (Vietnam) and Tan Yuhan of Belgium. The winner of Group ‘D’ takes on Group ‘C’ which has eighth seed Kenichi Tago (Japan) and Niluka Karunrathna (Sri Lanka). Lee Chong Wei is the top seed and is in Group A while second seed Lin Dan is in Group P and is in the bottom half of the draw.
Left-hander Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa, who won bronze in the World Championship at the same venue last year, are in tough Group ‘B’ which has fourth seeds Mizuki Fujii and Reika Kakiiwa (Japan), Cheng Wen Hsing/Chien Yu Chin (Chinese Taipei) and Shinta Sari Mulia/Yao Lei (Singapore). Incidentally, all the doubles pair are ranked above Jwala and Ashwini in the world rankings. The Indian pair are presently ranked 20th in the world while the Chinese Taipei and Singapore pairs are 10th and 13th ranked players in the world. In doubles, the top two of each group will qualify for the quarterfinals.
The Indian mixed doubles pair of V Diju and Jwala are drawn in Group C along with third seeds Tontowi Ahmad & Liliyana Natsir (Indonesia), Thonas Laybourn (Denmark) & Kamillla Rytter Juhl and Lee Yong Dae & Ha Jung Eun (Korea).
It was a low key send-off for the team. The badminton matches will start on July 28.