Saina ready to carry country’s hopes

World no. 3 women’s singles shuttler Saina Nehwal will lead the strongest-ever India squad to the World Championship, to be played in Gungzhou, China, from August 5 to 11.
Women’s doubles players Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa ended the country’s 28-year-old medal drought at the event by winning a bronze medal in 2011, and the young squad this time will aim to bring home at least one medal from the prestigious championship for the second successive time. Jwala and Ashwini though will not be seen together in China, having changed their partners in the recent past. Thus, all eyes of home fans will be on Saina to record her maiden podium finish in the championship.
“Though Saina is obviously our best bet at the World Championship, this will be the first time that India will have two representatives in each of the five categories at the Worlds and that is proof of how well our players are performing at the international circuit,” said Badminton Association of India president Akhilesh Das Gupta on Wednesday.
India’s best medal hopes — Saina and Malaysian GP gold medallist P.V. Sindhu — open with byes and have a decent draw in the women’s singles.
Saina’s first real challenge will only be at the quarter-final where she is likely to meet either eighth seed Minatsu Mitani of Japan or 13th seed Bae Yeon Ju of Korea.
“I don’t want to think too far ahead and would like to take things one match at a time. I have been working very hard for the last few weeks and I hope to be at my best in China,” said Saina, who reached the quarter-finals of the last three editions.
In the bottom half of the draw, Sindhu will have to overcome defending champion Wang Yihan of China in the pre-quarter-finals if she has to entertain any hope a medal.
Among other stars, 13th seed P. Kashyap is likely to meet sixth seed Yun Hu of Hong Kong in the pre-quarters. Compatriot Ajay Jayaram has a tough opener against Wing Ki Wong of Hong Kong.

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