Shuttlers Saina, Sindhu in focus at All England Open (Preview)
Birmingham (England), March 7 (IANS) Saina Nehwal, P.V. Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth are all fresh and eager to compete at the All England Open Badminton Championships that begin here on Wednesday.
Eighth seed Saina, who overcame a career-ending knee injury, will meet World No.11 and defending champion Nozomi Okuhara of Japan in the first round. The 2012 London Olympic bronze medallist was a runner-up in 2015 and there may not be a better tournament than All England to showcase that her troublesome days are well and truely over.
The Japanese shuttler has faced her Indian opponent on six previous occasions, winning only once at the World Superseries Finals in 2015.
Saina, who now has to share the Indian badminton limelight with 2016 Rio Olympic silver medal winner Sindhu, will also out to prove that she still has enough firepower to carry Indian hopes. After the surgery, she has also won Malaysian Masters Grand Prix Gold that indicates that her comeback has been smooth and she will be hungry to continue that. But Saina is aware that the standard of play here will be much more demanding than the Malaysian event and she has to be ready.
Sixth seed Sindhu will begin her campaign at the Barclaycard Arena against Danish Mette Poulsen. At this stage of her career, All England presents a perfect opportunity for the two-time World Championship bronze medallist to further elevate her profile.
Only two Indians, Prakash Padukone and current chief coach P. Gopichand have won titles at the All England and the latter will do his best to ensure that the drought ends in the prestigious badminton meet.
Both world No.5 Sindhu and Saina have done good preparations, skipping tournaments leading up this week.
India also has its representatives in the men’s singles — Srikanth, H.S. Prannoy and Ajay Jayaram.
While Rio Olympic quarter-finalist Srikanth opens his campaign against a qualifier, Prannoy will take on China’s Qiao Bin. World No.19 and double Dutch Open winner Jayaram will meet China’s Huang Yuxiang.
In the men’s doubles category, Manu Attri and B. Sumeeth Reddy will face a qualifying pair in the opening round.
The women’s doubles pair of Jakkampudi Meghana and Poorvisha S Ram will meet Chinese Taipei’s Hsu Ya Ching and Wu Ti Jung.
The mixed doubles pair of Pranaav Jerry Chopra and N. Sikki Reddy will face South Koreans Yoo Yeon Seong and Kim Ha Na.