All England Championships: Tricky path for Saina
Although there are no major threats until the quarterfinals, the Indian has to contend with some young and upcoming prospects who are capable of derailing her campaign. Up first is Thai youngster Sapsiree Taerattanachai, whom Saina should be able to get past. In the second round is a likely encounter with Minatsu Mitani, who beat Saina at the French Open last year.
If she gets into the quarterfinals, Saina might face one of two Chinese – Wang Shixian or Jiang Yanjiao. Of the two, Saina will be wary of taking on Shixian, who has reached the finals of her last two tournaments. Still, if Saina plays to form, she should be able to make the semifinals at least.
Compatriot PV Sindhu is in Saina’s half, and also faces a Thai in her first round – Busanan Ongbumrungpan. If Sindhu gets past the first round, she will likely run into the in-form German Juliane Schenk in the second.
Four Indians will be seen in qualifying round action in the men’s singles. Anand Pawar, Sourabh Verma, Guru Sai Dutt and Sai Praneeth will hope to survive two rounds of qualifying matches to make it to the main draw, but since Verma and Pawar are in the same quarter, only one of them can make it, assuming both win their first round matches tomorrow.
Their compatriots Ajay Jayaram and P Kashyap face tough first round opponents. While Jayaram takes on Wang Zhengming of China – a player he beat at Hong Kong in November – Kashyap will play Taipei’s Hao Jen Hsu. A meeting with either Viktor Axelsen or Kenichi Tago (7) is due next if Kashyap goes through to round 2.
With defending champion Lin Dan missing from the draw, the attention in men’s singles will be on two-time champion Lee Chong Wei (Malaysia) and Chen Long (2).
The other Indians in the contest are Pranaav Chopra/Akshay Dewalkar and Tarun Kona/Arun Vishnu (in men’s doubles qualifying); Pradnya Gadre/ Ashwini Ponnappa and Jwala Gutta/Prajakta Sawant (women’s doubles qualifying) and Arun Vishnu/ Aparna Balan (qualifying) and Tarun Kona/ Ashwini Ponnappa (mixed doubles main draw).