Saina to lead Indian challenge

The 21-year-old, who reached the quarterfinals in the last two editions of the mega-event, has been troubled by an ankle injury this year, but is completely fit now after undergoing rigorous preparation for the tournament.

“I have been working really hard for the last 4-5 months. There has been a lot of improvement but it will boil down to how well I adjust to the courts in London and play in the initial rounds,” said Saina.

The World number six got a bye in the first round and is likely to take on Adrianti Firdasari in the second. Saina has a 2-2 record against the Indonesian.

The sixth seeded Indian is likely to face 14th seed Pui Yin Yip of Hong Kong in the pre-quarters but her acid test will be in the quarters where she could meet world number three Wang Xin of China. Xin had beaten Saina thrice but the Indian won their last encounter at the Sudirman Cup in May.

If Saina gets past Xin, she might play world number 2 Wang Yihan in the semis. “The draw is not very tough but it is not easy either. It is 50-50. I have played these players in the past and won, but in the World Championship I still need to play very well to beat them,” Saina said.

In the men’s singles, P Kashyap and Ajay Jayaram will lead the challenge in the prestigious tournament, which is also a dress rehearsal for the London Olympics next year.

Jayaram, who is playing his first World Championship, will be up against 15th seed Kenichi Tago of Japan in the opening round, and the world number 35 is confident of a good performance.

World number 28 Kashyap will open his campaign at the Wembley Arena against German Dieter Domke, whom he has beaten thrice in the past. If he gets past Domke, he is likely to meet seventh seed Tien Minh Nguyen, who beat him during the US Open last month. But Kashyap has defeated the Vietnamese twice in the past. Tien, though, has improved leaps and bounds since then, reaching seventh in the world rankings.

India’s top doubles team of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa will open their campaign against Malaysian pair of Eva Lee and Paula Lynn Obanana in the doubles competition. V Diju will return to international badminton after recovering from a back surgery and will pair up with Jwala in the mixed doubles competition.

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