Saina takes on Swiss lass Jacquet in first round

Saina takes on Swiss lass Jacquet in first round

Saina Nehwal begins her pursuit of a badminton medal at the London Oly-mpics on Sunday and her first-round opponent in the three-player preliminary group is Swiss Sabrina Jaquet.  

At the Beijing Games four years ago, Saina was stopped a round before the medal stage in the quarters by Indonesian Maria Kristin Yulianti, who went on to take the bronze. 

It was a big achievement for the 18-year-old Saina then. This time around she is seeded fourth and she is seen as a definite medal prospect. She is determined, too, and even the draw looks kind to her, though she herself believes that there is nothing called easy round at major international events.  

“The draw looks quite tough. I’ve played them before and they have given me a tough challenge. I expect good matches and I will take one match at a time,” Saina told IANS.

“I have developed as a player. This is my second Olympics and I am more experienced now and I know how to relax. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself,” said the 22-year-old.

The ace shuttler, who recently won the Indonesia Open Super Series Premier, is expected to face stiff challenge from group-mate Belgian Lianne Tan and two-time All England champion Tine Baun of Denmark in a possible quarterfinal clash. She has a 3-3 head-to-head record against Baun.   

If Saina is through to the medal round, she will run into World  No 1 Yihan Wang in the semis and she has never beaten the Chinese in their five encounters.

In the men’s singles, Indonesia Open Super Series Premier semifinalist Parupalli Kashyap will be in action on Saturday against Yuhan Tan of Belgium. The other player in his group is 10th-seeded Vietnamese Nguyen Tien Min. It is going to be tough for the Indian  to enter the round of 16 where his likely  opponent will be Kenichi Tago of Japan, seeded eighth.

However, doubles specialists Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa cannot be taken lightly as at this very Wembley Arena they won their World Championship bronze medal last year. They have been placed with fourth seeds Mizuki Fujii and Reika Kakiiwa of Japan.

In doubles, two of the four teams from each group are to advance to the quarterfinals and the Indian duo can look for a medal provided they play to their potential.

In the mixed doubles, Jwala and V Diju are in Group C along with three other teams, including Indonesia’s third seeds Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir.

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