Saina Nehwal leads Indian challenge in China Open

Saina and her team-mates are taking team photo before departing for China

New Delhi: The Indian challenge in the women’s singles weakened a lot with the withdrawal of PV Sindhu out of the China Open Super Series Premier to be held in Fuzhou from Tuesday.

In the absence of the World Championships bronze medalist, the onus will be on Saina Nehwal to keep the Indian flag flying. Sindhu fell sick after the European tour and decided to skip China. She will, however, play in the Hong Kong and Macau tournaments later this month.Saina and her team-mates are taking team photo before departing for China

Even as the new stadium which resembles a space ship gears up to host one of China’s most important events, the Indians may find it difficult to make a mark here.

Interestingly, it was in Fuzhou that the inaugural edition of China Open was held and the event is returning back to the city after a gap of 28 years.

Saina, who made a re-entry into the top five rankings, will begin against world No.15 Sayaka Takahashi of Japan in the first round. Saina has never lost to Takahashi and may not find it difficult against her on Wednesday. The 24-year-old may have a relatively easy outing against upcoming Chinese youngster Jinjing Qin in the second round.

But the real challenge for Saina will be the likely quarterfinal against top seed Li Xuerui of China. The contest will be a test of Saina’s new experiments. Badminton buffs are waiting anxiously to see how Saina will perform after she changed her coach. It’s learnt that Saina is determined to prove a point and has been working quite hard under Vimal Kumar.

The experienced coach too is trying different methods and has been concentrating a lot on improving her performance. The shuttler told ToI that she can notice a lot of improvement under the guidance of her new coach.

Though the draw was a bit kind on the men they need to punch above their weights to reach the title round. The presence of top stars like world champ Chen Long and legendary Lin Dan makes it difficult for the Indians.

Top ranked Indian Kidambi Srikanth faces a qualifier in the first round while Parupalli Kashyap will meet Nan Wei of Vietnam. Fast rising Indian HS Prannoy, who won the Indonesia Masters this year, may not have it easy against Viktor Axelsen of Denmark. Chief coach Pullela Gopichand, who is not accompanying the team, hoped that the Indians will make good use of the draw.


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