Dreams rest on Saina

Indian will face stiff battle from Chinese shuttlers

With an array of countries that have ruled the sport over the years in fray, it indeed will be a treat for the fans when the contests begin at the Tianhe Gymnasium on Saturday.

China, the top dogs in badminton, will of course be the favourites, having swept all the five titles on offer at the World Championships in Paris this year. But India have more than a semblance of interest in the event, thanks mainly to the presence of a player answering to the name of Saina Nehwal.

Saina, ranked number three in the world and seeded second, will be aiming to do something that no Indian has done before -- win an Asiad gold. But with the Chinese standing in her way, the Commonwealth Games champion faces the toughest of tasks.

Wang Xin, the top seed, and Wang Shixian, seeded number three, are Saina’s main challengers here.  The Indian, who had lost in the second round to eventual winner Wang Chen, is better prepared and more confident this time, having won a string of titles along the way. An Asian Games triumph will be another jewel in her crown.

In the team events taking off on Saturday, Indonesia are India’s first-round rivals in the women’s event and it will be a surprise if they progress far in the tournament.  In the men’s section, India will be facing Chinese Taipei first and have sprung a surprise by altering their doubles combinations.

Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas, their main doubles players will be playing with different partners, with Rupesh competing alongside V Diju and Sanave partnering Akshay Diwalkar. It remains to be seen how the change works, with Taipei being a tricky opponent.

With Chetan Anand absent, the Indian focus in men’s singles will be on P Kashyap while the mixed doubles combination of Jwala Gutta and Diju can reach the podium if they play to potential.

China won four of the seven gold medals on offer in Doha and of their defeats, the one in the men’s singles would have hurt them most. Indonesian Taufik Hidayat upset China’s applecart then for his second straight gold but the Chinese are stronger this time, with world champion Chen Jin -- who beat Hidayat in the Paris final -- and Lin Dan leading their assault.

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