Saina Nehwal still in hunt for title; tough draw for rest in France
Paris: Still looking for her maiden title this season, India ace shuttler Saina Nehwal would be keen to put her best foot forward at the French Super Series even as the rest of Indians face a tough draw in the badminton tournament, which begins with the qualifiers here on Monday.
After failing to defend her title at Denmark Open last week, Saina will now open her campaign at the French Open against Thailand`s Nichaon Jindapon on Wednesday.
The Indian had been in good form at the Indian Badminton League and though she looked to be in good touch for most part of the tournament, Saina could not prevent a quarterfinal exit in the Denmark Open, her first event since the IBL.
"I am in good form. I had slipped unfortunately during the match against Ji Hyun Sung. It was a minor thing, I did some stretching and a few exercise and then I was okay. In fact, I was in control of the match too but then she was also playing well and in the end, she won," said Saina.
"Now I am looking forward to the French Open, where I had finished as runners up. I don`t know what God has in store for me. I will give my best and hope to do well," added the Indian, who is ranked fourth in the world.
World number 10 P V Sindhu, who had won the prestigious bronze at the World championship, also exited the Denmark Open early after her gallant fight against Japan`s Eriko Hirose ended with a straight-game defeat.
But at the Stade Pierre De Coubertin, it will a bigger challenge when Sindhu faces sixth seed Korean Ji Hyun Sung, who had ended Saina`s run at Denmark.
In the men`s singles, Parupalli Kashyap will clash with top seed and world number one, Lee Chong Wei, while world number 25 Ajay Jayaram will meet Kazumasa Sakai of Japan in the opening round.
World number 24, RMV Gurusaidutt will also face a tricky Chinese in Chen Yuekun, ranked 29th, in the first round.
Meanwhile, it will also be a comeback tournament for Jwala Gutta, who has been living under the threat of a life ban by the Badminton Association of India (BAI) following an alleged discipline breach at the Indian badminton League.
After missing the Denmark Open, it will be the first tournament where Jwala will renew her partnership with Ashwini Ponnappa, with whom she had won the bronze at 2011 World Championship and Commonwealth Games gold medal in 2010 in New Delhi.
The celebrated pair will begin their campaign against Indonesian combo of Gebby Ristiyani Imawan and Tiara Rosalia Nuraidah in the women`s doubles competition.
"Jwala will play in French Open and Bitburger Open now. There is not much communication from the BAI, so as of now she is playing this two events before coming back to India," Jwala`s father Kranti Gutta said.
Ashwini will again pair up with Tarun Kona to take on Scotland`s Robert Blair and Imogen Bankier in the mixed doubles competition.
In the qualifiers, Arundhati Pantawane will be up against Taiwan`s Ching Chieh Tai in women`s singles, while in the men`s singles, H S Prannoy will take on Andre Kurniawan Tedjono, Anand Pawar face Brice Leverdez of France, K Srikanth have to fight it out with Scott Evans, while Sourabh Verma need to get it across Dong Leun Lee on Tuesday.