Saina will be the cynosure

Former National coach U Vimal Kumar analyses Indias chances in Hyderabad

aiming to soar high:  Saina Nehwal is the Indian spearhead at Hyderabad but illness has affected her preparations. AFP

 While Saina remains India’s best hope, the mixed doubles pair of V Diju and Jwala Gutta and Chetan Anand in men’s singles are capable of springing pleasant surprises in Hyderabad.

Former national coach and Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy director U Vimal Kumar, who has been hands-on with all the Indian players, analyses their strengths, weaknesses and their chances at the championship:

Women’s singles
Saina Nehwal
Saina is going to be our best bet in the championships. She has consistently beaten the top-ranked players in the world and our hopes of finishing in the medal’s bracket rest greatly on her. At the moment she is recovering from a bout of chicken pox so I am not sure how it is going to affect her performance.

But I feel there will be some effect especially while playing the top-ranked players. Saina’s first big test will be against Petya Nedelcheva, who is capable of pushing her.
But then she will be up against the second-seeded Chinese Lin Wang, whom she beat in the finals of the Indonesian Super Series in June. If she can pull through then anything can happen bacause beating higher-ranked players will obviously enhance one’s confidence especially coming off chicken pox.

The thing about Saina is that she is mentally tough and unlike most our players, she is not scared of Chinese players. She makes them play to her strengths. She has good court coverage and draws Chinese to the net which isn’t their strength.

Sayali Gokhale and Aditi Mutatkar
Sayali hasn’t played many international tournaments in the run up to the championship, but she has done really well on the domestic circuit.
She is the defending National women’s champion and recently won the Tata Open. So she has been consistent. But she has a very tough first-round opponent in Jei Yao of Netherlands.

Jei is Chinese who migrated to the Netherlands and has been among the top 10 players. If she stays on top her game and makes her opponent work as well, we have a real chance of upset here. From here on each win for her will be an achievement in itself.
Aditi’s problem has been her knee and if it holds up we can expect some good performances from her. Compared to Sayali, I would say Aditi has a slightly less tricky draw.

She is up against 11th seed German Juliane Schenk, whom she has beaten earlier. As I said if her knee doesn’t bother her, she has a good chance of advancing further in the tournament.

Chetan Anand
He is our best hope in men’s singles. He is the most skilful among the Indians, has a number a strokes but is a little moody.

Chetan  is very deceptive and attractive to watch. He reminds me of Prakash (Padukone) but without the same mental make up.

He has beaten some of the top players in the world, but has lacked consistency. His advantage is he is playing at home and he has always done well in Hyderabad. He is a kind of player who thrives on crowd support.

Till last-16 he shouldn’t have much of a problem. In pre-quarterfinals he meets Sony Dwi Kontoro, whom he has beaten before. But he also lost to him this year. Sony is predominently a retreiver while Chetan is an attacking player.

He will have to upset Sony’s gameplan to give himself a good chance of a victory. After that he meets World No 1 Lee Chong Wei.  The Malaysian has been in great form and it’s really going to be tough, but then again, Wei is not unbeatable.

Arvind Bhat
Like Chetan, Arvind too has wins against top-notch players and lacks consistency.
He is similar to Chetan when it comes to mental toughness. If he is in the right frame of mind he can beat the best in the business. But you can’t beat an opponent on court when you have already lost to him in your mind.

He is the defending National champion and had a good game against Lin Dan at the Indian Open in Hyderabad earlier this year.

Considering that he is playing at home and has trained well, he should be able to beat Yu Hsing Hsieh of Chinese Taipei in the first round.
No excuses if he doesn’t.

Mixed doubles
Valiyaveetil Diju and Jwala Gutta
The mixed doubles pair of V Diju and Jwala Gutta is our next best hope of a medal win. The pair has been consistently doing well and risen to the top-10 in ranking riding on some good wins in the last few months.
Again like Saina, this pair has beaten top players consistently over a period of time. Jwala is a dominant player here. She is a kind of a player who wants to control the game.
She is tall, unafraid and has a good smash. Diju is a perfect foil for her. He is a delicate player and has a variety of strokes. He is someone who will take the pace off the shuttle while Jwala hustles the rivals.
This has worked well for them and if they play to their potential, we have a great chance of winning a medal. 

Men’s and women’s doubles
Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas
Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas are an experienced pair and have been doing well at the National level.  Their title win in New Zealand, though against lower-ranked players, should hold them in good stead in the worlds. Due to various personal and professional reasons, they missed out on lots of action in 2007-08. They have come back together now and are slowly, but surely, establishing themselves.

On the women’s side, Aparna Balan and Shruti Kurien are just coming together after Shruti spilt up with Jwala.

After a first round bye, they run straight into second-seeded Chinese Shu Cheng and Yunlei Zhao. Honestly I don’t have much expectations from them.

As told to Madhu Jawali

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