World No 1 at stake as Saina Nehwal gears up for India Super Series

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New Delhi, Mar 23: Avenging her All England loss to Spain's Carolina Marin and clinching the World No. 1 status will be on her mind when ace Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal leads the home challenge in the Yonex Sunrise India Open Super Series which gets underway with the qualifiers here tomorrow.

For years, Saina has been hoping to become the first Indian woman shuttler to reach the numero uno status and that dream will be within touching distance when the top seed opens her campaign at the USD 275,000 event against a qualifier on Wednesday.

File picture of Saina Nehwal

However, it will be second seed Carolina, the reigning world champion, who will stand in her way, trying to become the first Spaniard to achieve the feat.

Among the men, new sensation Kidambi Srikanth, who clinched the Swiss Grand Prix Gold earlier this month, will also be the cynosure of all eyes as he starts as the second seed behind Denmark's Jan O Jorgensen.

The 22-year-old from Guntur rose to World No. 4 on the back of some sensational performances, including winning the China Open crown last year beating two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan and he would look to carry on with his good form when he walks out at the Siri Fort Complex this week.

Srikanth will open his campaign with a clash against Thai Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk, ranked world No. 19. The Indian has a 1-1 record against Saensomboonsuk, having beaten him in their last encounter at the 2014 Hong Kong Open.

"I have been trying hard and was lucky too. I think having good 6-7 Indian players has helped me to grow. But it was beating Lin Dan in his own country that boosted my confidence a lot. I won the Swiss Open and I hope to continue the good run here," Srikanth said.

Commonwealth Games champion Parupalli Kashyap, who clinched the Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold in January, will also be a top contender for the title, looking to get back his rhythm after recovering from a string of injuries.

A fit-again Kashyap, ranked 13th, will face Chinese Taipei's Hsu Jen Hao. The Indian had beaten him in the 2013 All England Championship but lost to the same opponent in Badminton Asia Championships last year.

"Injuries affected me a lot but all that is in the past. I have been training for two weeks after All England. I was very confident after the Syed Modi. I played two tournaments and I won one. I feel that I can win any GPG tournament. My focus is on the India Open now. A win will be the most satisfying thing this week," he said.

Saina and Marin have already faced each other in two summit clashes

Among other Indians, Indonesia GP gold winner HS Prannoy will take on Israel's Misha Zilberman, B Sai Praneeth will meet sixth seed Viktor Axelsen of Denmark, Ajay Jayaram will face off against Hong Kong's Hu Yun and Anand Pawar will square off against a qualifier in their campaign opener.

In women's singles, young shuttlers such as Rituparna Das, Tanvi Lad, Saili Rane, Shruti Mundada, P C Thulasi, Riya Pillai and Gadde Ruthvika Shivani will look to punch above their weight.

National men's doubles champion Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy and 2011 world championship bronze-medallist Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa are also in the fray. Attri and Reddy, who upset the world number seven pair in the recently-concluded All England Championship, have a tough opener against second seed Kenichi Hayakawa and Hiroyuki Endo of Japan.

In women's doubles, Jwala and Ashwini have a tough task of getting the better of the sixth-seeded Chinese pair of Ou Dongni and Xiaohan Yu. Among the top shuttlers, third seed and five-time world champion Lin Dan has been placed in the top half and will open his campaign against Chinese Taipei's Tzu Wei Wang.

Top seed Jan O Jorgensen will start off against Japan's Sho Sasaki but he would be looking forward to the possibility of an all-Danish clash in the quarterfinals against sixth seed Axelsen.

However, it is the possible rematch of the All England final between Saina and Carolina that everybody will be waiting for once the main-draw starts on Wednesday.

Saina and Marin have already faced each other in two summit clashes this year with both sharing the spoils – the Indian winning in Syed Modi Grand Prix gold, while Marin coming on top at the All England Championships.

Both should cruise till the quarterfinal stage where the former is likely to meet Pai Yu Po of Chinese Taipei, while Marin could run into sixth seed Okuhara Nozomi of Japan.

The biggest hurdle to Saina's march in the finals is likely to come from Xin Liu of China in the semi-finals, against whom the Indian ace enjoys a 2-0 record.


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