Saina starts favourite, chance for other Indians to impress
London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal will no doubt be the cynosure of all eyes but the India Open Super Series starting here tomorrow, will hold more significance for the country's other shuttlers, who would look to prove their mettle at the highest level.
While Saina will be the centre of attraction in the women's singles category, world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei would be no less sought-after in the men's section.
World No. 2 Saina and the Malaysian star, who won the inaugural India Open Superseries title in 2011, will spearhead the challenge in the women's and men's categories, respectively at the Siri Fort Sports Complex from April 23-28.
In the absence of top Chinese shuttlers, Saina has been seeded number one and handed a relatively easy draw. She will open her campaign against unseeded Belaetrix Manuputi of Indonesia in the women's singles event.
Saina had beaten the Indonesian comfortably in the All England Badminton pre-quarterfinals last month.
In fact, the Hyderabadi is not likely to be challenged much in the first two rounds but may face some threat from compatriot P V Sindhu, who is seeded eighth in the competition.
High on confidence having defeated former World No.1 Shixian Wang of China at the Badminton Asia Championships in Taipei last week, Sindhu might pose a challenge to Saina.
"(If we meet) It would be an interesting match. Hardly we girls play each other. Being a top player, I will be under some pressure," said Saina on the eve of the competition.
Saina's first real test, however, is likely to be against world no. 8, Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand in the semi-finals. Intanon, seeded third in the competition, had recently got the better of the Indian in the semi-finals of the All England Championships.