Battle for the top spot

Battle for the top spot

Rarely in its five-year existence had Yonex Sunrise India Open evinced such interest in world badminton. Rarely, too, had Chinese domination been so severely challenged. The history is knocking at the door and at the hands of none other than India’s very own Saina Nehwal and recent All England Champion Carolina Marin of Spain.

 Come Tuesday, the newly forged rivalry of the two champion shuttlers will be keenly followed as they battle out for the prized No 1 spot in the women’s singles rankings at the Siri Fort Sports Complex. To accomplish that however, there are several permutations and combinations to be considered.

Saina, who is currently ranked World No 2 (74,381 points), is the favourite for the coveted spot. But she will lose the race if World No 4 Carolina makes the final and she loses in the quarterfinals; or Carolina wins the tournament and she fails to make the final of the $275,000 event.

The Chinese have been unchallenged since 2010. If either Saina or Carolina manage to do this, it will be a first for a player from India or Spain to hold the distinction of being No 1. Denmark's Tine Baun was the last non-Chinese to achieve the feat in December 2010.

Both Saina and Carolina tasted early success in the season. Saina beat Carolina to win the Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold title in Lucknow. The Spaniard, who is seeded second here, avenged her loss by beating the Indian in the All England final. The left-handed Carolina, 21, had shown tremendous grit to fight her way to the title.
India Open, however, has always given heart burns to Saina due to her series of early exits. Her shoulder injury, days before the new edition, has only made the task more daunting. “I don’t know how much time it will take for full recovery but it is important for me to win India Open,” Saina, who is the top seed here, said. She may, however, take solace in the absence of top Chinese women here.
Apart from her, former World champion and 2013 winner here, Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon, is the player to look out for. In the men’s singles, the great Lin Dan has attracted significant attention by his participation. The presence of the five-time World Champion will raise the bar for the field, which has many promising players like top seed Denmark’s J Jorgensen, India’s K Srikanth, Japan’s Kentoi Momota.
With the Indians doing well leading up to the tournament, focus will also be on them to bring their best on the home turf. World No 4 Srikanth, who had beaten Lin Dan in his backyard to win the China Open, believed Indians can win the home event.
"We have seen players like Lee Chong Wei and Taufik Hidayat winning Super Series at home. I feel we can do, too. I have been playing well in last few months. I have worked on my physical aspect and on developing new styles. I hope we can do it this time,” said Srikanth, seeded second.

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