World No.2 Saina Nehwal will lead the Indian challenge at the All England Open Badminton Championships starting on Wednesday at the National Indoor Arena here.
Saina will face World No.20 Sapsiree Taerattanachai in the first round. Saina has beaten the Thai on all the four occasions they have met in the past. The Olympic bronze medallist will try to better her performance in the prestigious Premier Super Series tournament. Saina’s best at the $350,000 tournament was the semi-final appearance in 2010.
The Hyderabadi may face some real challenge from quarters, where she could be up against former World No.1 Shixian Wang. Saina has a 3-1 head-to-head record against the Chinese.
Giving Saina company in the women’s singles is rising star P.V. Sindhu, who will be facing another Thai Busanan Ongbumrungpan in the opening round. Sindhu, 17, also from Hyderabad, has beaten Busanan in the only match they have played till date.
In the men’s singles, Mumbai lad Ajay Jayaram starts his campaign against World No.19 Zhengming Wang of China. Jayaram has a 1-0 head-to-head record against the Chinese.
If Jayaram gets past the first round, he will most likely face World No.1 and top seed Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia in the second round on Thursday.
London Olympics quarterfinalist Parupalli Kashyap will take on Hsu Jen Hao of Chinese Taipei for the first time. World No.11 Kashyap has been drawn into a tough lower half of the main draw and could face Danish Viktor Axelsen, seventh seed Kenichi Tago of Japan and second seed Chen Long of China.
Kashyap will have a tough time achieving his childhood dream of winning the title which his mentor and national coach Pullela Gopichand won more than a decade ago.
In the mixed doubles, Jwala Gutta will be making a comeback since the London Games with V. Diju while her old-time women’s doubles partner Ashwini Ponnappa will team up with Kerala shuttler Tarun Kona.
Among other Indians, Sourabh Verma, R.M.V. Gurusaidutt and B. Sai Praneeth will be vying for the last few spots left in the main draw via the qualifiers.