Dubai: Top shuttlers Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth will have a tough task at hand when they lead the Indian challenge in the season-ending BWF's World Super Series final starting here on Wednesday.
Brimming with confidence after their stupendous show at the China Super Series Premier, Saina and Srikanth will face an acid test as they will have to compete against the top eight shuttlers in their respective category in the season finale which will be hosted by the gulf city for the first time.
A tough draw awaits Saina as she has been clubbed with China's Shixian Wang, Koreans Ji Hyun Sung and Yeon Ju Bae in Group A, while Srikanth has been handed a relatively easy draw with Jan O Jorgensen of Denmark, Kento Momoto of Japan and Tommy Sugiarto of Indonesia in Group B.
However, both the shuttlers will have to play out of their skin as only two players from each group will qualify for the semifinals.
Olympic bronze medallist Saina holds a 5-5 record against Shixian, with the Chinese beating the Indian four times in the last five meetings.
Against Hyun Sung, Saina has a 4-1 record but then the only time they meet in the last two years, the Indian had suffered a defeat. Against World No. 9 Bae, Saina has won six times while losing four times.
A 2011 finalist, Saina doesn't have good memories of her outing in the last edition in Kuala Lumpur where she could win just one match in her group stage, failing to enter the knockout stage.
Talking about her preparation for the USD 1,000,000 event, Saina said: "My preparation has been excellent. Now let us see if luck favours me. There are eight top players in fray and I still have to do better than what we have done earlier.
"I prefer playing Shixian to Yihan, since it has been tough for me against Yihan. But Wang Shixian too is a difficult player and it might be a long match. I will look to perform my best, that would be the target," she added reflecting on her draw.
While Saina has a tough draw, it's no better in Group B with former Finals champion, Wang Yihan, facing the likes of Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand; last year's beaten finalist, Tai Tzu Ying (Chinese Taipei) and young gun Akane Yamaguchi of Japan.
For World No. 8 Srikanth, it would be a great experience as he is the only male Indian shuttler to play in the Super Series Final and he would look to make it count. Among the members in his group, he has beaten Jorgensen and Momoto before, while he lost to Sugiarto in his only meeting.
Srikanth will be happy to avoid Group A, touted as 'group of death', which will have World champion and leading contender Chen Long of China, Son Wan Ho of Korea, Japan's Kenichi Tago and Hans-Kristian Vittinghus.
Group A: Chen Long (China), Son Wan Ho (Korea), Kenichi Tago (Japan), Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (Denmark)
Group B: Jan O Jorgensen (Denmark), Kidambi Srikanth (India), Kento Momota (Japan), Tommy Sugiarto (Indonesia)
Group A: Wang Shixian (China), Saina Nehwal (India), Sung Ji Hyun (Korea), Bae Yeon Ju (Korea)
Group B: Wang Yihan (China), Ratchanok Intanon (Thailand), Tai Tzu Ying (Chinese Taipei), Akane Yamaguchi (Japan).