New Delhi: Pullela Gopichand expects Saina Nehwal to make the last four stage of the World Badminton Championships to be held in Hyderabad next month, even though he said he would like to refrain from any predictions in what he expects to be a ‘very tough tournament.’
"I would say that the semifinals would be a good target for Saina, though one should think about one match at a time when one approaches such a big tournament," said Gopichand, who has nurtured Saina with his vast experience.
"I feel there is a good chance the home crowd will spur her on to do better. She has had a good break of three or four weeks, which is the right way to approach a tournament of this magnitude," said the former all-England champion at the draw ceremony for the August 10 to 16 event.
Sixth seeded Nehwal has got a bye in the first round of the women’s singles and has only second seeded Wang Lin as a player above her ranking in her quarter of the draw. "Saina beat Wang at the Indonesian Open, so I would say the draw is fairly favourable. I hope she can make the most of this opportunity and really pulls it off," said Gopichand at a function marked by the presence of Badminton World Federation (BWF) deputy president Paisan Rangsikitpho, Badminton Association of India (BAI) president VK Verma and Sports Minister Dr MS Gill apart from a host of prominent Indian Olympic Association (IOA) officials.
"I think the Indians, especially Chetan Anand, have a decent draw. I would say that like in the women’s section, the top half of the draw is heavier," added Gopichand. Anand, who is seeded 15th in men’s singles, has a first round opponent in Korean Ji Hoong Hong but faces third seeded Peter Gade of Denmark in the third round.
Prakash Padukone, who discussed the draw along with Gopichand, felt the men’s draw was a very competitive one. "I think it is extremely difficult to predict who will win because everyone has a good chance," said Padukone, also an all-England champion.
World number one Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia, Jin Chen of China and Taufeek Hidayat of Indonesia are the top names in the men’s section, while world number one Zhou Mi of Hong Kong is the biggest name in the women’s section.
Gopichand said India had a fighting chance in doubles and mixed doubles events and felt the Chinese pairs would be difficult opponents even if the seedings did not suggest so at times. With 15 Indians in the fray, the BAI is hoping the event will give a fillip to the game in the country.