Saina Nehwal hopes to start season on a high with Indonesia Open triumph
Ace Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal will continue her quest for a maiden title this season, when she begins her campaign at the $900,000 Indonesia Open
Jakarta: Ace Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal will continue her quest for a maiden title this season to boost her confidence ahead of the Rio Olympics, when she begins her campaign at the $900,000 Indonesia Open Super Series Premier starting with the qualifiers on Monday.
After missing a few tournaments due to a nagging ankle injury, Saina recovered well to notch up a consistent run of form, reaching the semi-finals in a slew of events, including the India Open, Malaysia Open and Asian Championship.
En route to the Indian women's team's bronze medal winning feat at the Uber Cup, Saina won all her matches in the league stage but lost to Thailand's Ratchanok Intanon and China's Li Xuerui in the knockouts.
Saina, who had won the Indonesia Open title in 2009, 2010 and 2012, will hope to come up with a better show against the top shuttlers and grab her fourth crown when she opens her campaign against Chinese Taipei's Pai Yu Po on Tuesday. However, PV Sindhu, has decided to give it a miss as she will be training after a hectic schedule last month.
In men's singles too, K Srikanth and Ajay Jayaram decided to skip the event, while P Kashyap is undergoing physiotherapy after being operated for an injury. HS Prannoy will also miss the event as he is still recovering from a toe injury.
In qualifiers, B Sai Praneeth and RMV Gurusaidutt too will miss out and national champion Sameer Verma will be the only Indian competing in men's singles after he was promoted to the main draw.
Rio-bound shuttlers, including 2010 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa, will be up against the Indonesian pair of Febriana Dwipuji Kusuma and Ribka Sugiarto, while Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy will face Philippines' Peter Gabriel Magnaye and Alvin Morada in men's doubles.
Gopichand, who had guided Saina Nehwal and Sindhu to a bronze and silver respectively in the last two Olympics, believes Indian badminton players have a good opportunity to better their performance.
Sindhu, a silver medallist at Rio Games, notched up a 21-15 21-13 win over 13th seed Blichfeldt in a 41-minute match.
The soft-spoken Indian ace was not known for her aggression till five years back and it was chief national coach Pullela Gopichand, who had transformed her into an aggressive player ahead of the Rio Games.