Saina Nehwal, who is ranked number two, will begin her campaign against world number 20 Sapsiree Taerattanachi of Thailand in the All England badminton championship that will get under way in Birmingham from March 5 to 10. Coach and former all England winner Pullela Gopichand feels Saina Nehwal will start as one of the favourites to win the women’s title.
Being ranked No 2 means Saina is placed in the bottom half of the draw with top seed Xureui Li and third seed Wang Yihan in the top half, both dangerous customers. “For somebody like Saina it will be a good test. But with Li Xuerui and Wang Yihan in the top half, Saina will not meet these two Chinese players till the semifinals. But she has a couple of more players to handle. Overall, it is a decent draw and hopefully she makes the best of out of it,” said Gopichand.
After the first round, Saina is drawn to meet 10th seed Minatsu Mitani (Japan). It may be noted that Saina had lost to Minatsu in the French Open Super Series final last year. Saina is expected to face the first Chinese challenge in the quarterfinals when she runs into Wang Shixian, who is is seeded sixth, or fourth seed Juliane Schenk of Germany. Shixian, who has gone down in the ranking, is meeting her compatriot Jian Yanjio in the second round.
PV Sindhu, who is ranked 16th in the world, is also in the same half of Saina. Sindhu takes on Busanan Ongbumrungpan of Thailand, ranked 17th in the world, in the first round before running into Schenk in the second round.
Parupalli Kashyap, who broke into top 10 before slipping to be ranked 11th in the world, clashes with Jen Hao Hsu of Chinese Taipei in the men’s first-round match. But the Indian, who has some good results in the recent past, has a tough second round when he locks horns with seventh seed Kenichi Tago of Japan. “For Kashyap and Sindhu it is a tough draw,’’ said Gopichand.
World number 32 Ajay Jayaram, who is the second Indian in the men’s main draw, takes on Zhengming Weng of China, ranked 19th in the world, in the opening match. But if he overcomes his Chinese opponent, he is likely to meet top seed Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia. Players like Anand Pawar, Sourabh Verma, B Sai Praneeth and RMV Gurusaidutt feature in the men’s qualifying round, which will be held on March 5.
Left-hander Jwala Gutta, who is making a comeback of sorts, is teaming up with Prajakta Sawant in the women’s qualifying rounds. Jwala’s world championship partner Ashwini Ponnappa, who is pairing with Pradyna Gadre, also plays in the qualifying round.