SPORT

Saina given pride of place

V.V. Subrahmanyam

C’wealth Youth Games begins today

PUNE: Saina Nehawal’s name was not originally in the seedings list finalised for the Commonwealth Youth Games scheduled to formally begin on Sunday, because she had virtually stopped competing in the junior badminton circuit.

But, based on her runner-up performance in the last World Junior championship and given her impressive run in the Asian circuit, the competitions committee could not ignore her credentials and deemed it fit for the Indian ace woman shuttler to be given the pride of place in the women’s singles (though it is under-19 category technically, the competitions will be called men and women singles).

“I don’t think it is a question of that great significance for me,” Saina remarked after the seedings were released, giving an impression that she would be more keen to prove a point or two when the action begins.

The 18-year-old Hyderabad shuttler happens to be the only Indian girl ever to win two Grand Prix titles and given her remarkable performances in the Asian circuit, including a semifinal appearance in the China Masters besides the Chinese Taipei Grand Prix title, Saina should find the going really easy in the Games here.

In all probability she is expected to take on Riou Panuga of England in the semifinal after a first round bye and a comparatively easier opponents in the other earlier rounds.

Perfect platform

The preparations have been really good and she is really in peak fitness level, reminds India’s national coach Pullela Gopi Chand after another long training session with his most famous trainee. “I would not hazard a guess on the likely challengers given the fact that we see very little of all the foreign players here for the Games,” he said to a query. But he reminds that these Games can well be a perfect platform for the other juniors like Sikki Reddy to prove their mettle.

Interestingly, Sikki Reddy and P.C. Thulasi have been second seeded in the women’s doubles, perhaps indicating the bright chances of the host winning a medal in this event too.

In the men’s singles, junior national champion Guru Sai Dutt has been top-seeded after a first round bye and is expected to take on the seventh-seeded Lim Y of Malaysia in the quarterfinals. “Well, he is a dynamic player and capable of stunning the best on his day in his age group. He has the game, grit and composure needed at this level to pull off a special performance,” reminds Gopi.

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