Saina seeded second in Asian Games singles
Mumbai:India`s best bet in badminton, Saina Nehwal, is seeded second and given a first round bye in the women`s singles at next month`s Asian Games in Guangzhou, but faces a tough task in the quarter finals.
The badminton competitions, in which seven gold medals are at stake, would be held from November 13-21.
Saina, currently the world no 3 behind top ranked Chinese Xin Wang and Yihan Wang, is expected to get past either Lydia Cheah of Malaysia or Vietnam`s Thi Trang Vu, who are to clash in round one.
The 20-year-old Indian star, who made it to the Beijing Olympic Games quarter finals two years ago, has beaten Lydia when they met in the final of the Chinese Taipei Open in 2008.
Saina`s rising stature and her recent form going into the Asian Games on the back of the Commmonwealth Games gold should stand her in good stead if she is to face the 21-year-old Malaysian girl.
The Vietnamese is, however, an unknown commodity for the Indian medal hope as the two have never met before in an international competition at the senior level.
A victory in round two would pilot the Hyderabad-based Indian world junior champion straight into a potentially dangerous clash with Hong Kong`s World no 12 Pui Yin Yip,
They have a 1-1 head-to-head record till now, with the Haryana-born Saina having conquered Pui in straight games last year in the French Open after having lost to the Hong Kong girl in the 2007 Swiss Open.
In the semi finals, Saina is drawn to meet Chinese world no 5 Shixian Wang, the third seed, a rival to whom she had lost in this year`s world championship.
As many as eight players in the world`s top 20, including world no 1 Xin Wang, have entered the singles contest in which India`s other competitor, Aditi Mutatkar (world no 39) would be up against Thilini Jayasinghe of Sri Lanka in the first round.
A victory in the opener would pit Aditi against formidable Eriko Hirose of Japan, the fourth seed and world no 8, for a place in the last eight.
In men`s singles, India`s P Kashyap will have to overcome world no 9 Tien Minh Nguyen, seeded fifth, in the first round while national champion Chetan Anand, ranked 18th in the
world, is to line up against world no 4 Jin Chen of China, the third seed.
Twelve of the world`s top 20 ranked shuttlers, including world no 1 and 3 Chong Wei Lee (Malaysia) and Dan Lin (China) are to vie for the medals, making it a top drawer competition.
Saina would also spearhead the country`s women in the ten-team competition in which unseeded India are to face Indonesia in the first round with the winners entering the
China and Japan have been seeded one and two.
In women`s doubles, India`s CWG gold medal-winning duo Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa is not going to have an easy time along with compatriots Aparna Balan and Prajakta Sawant.
Both the Indian pairs are unseeded, the seedings headed by Chinese Taipei`s Wen Hsing Cheng and Yu Chin Chien.
In men`s doubles, top Indian pair Sanave Thomas and Rupesh Kumar have drawn a first round bye but their chances of progressing further looks bleak as top seeds Kien Keat Koo and Boon Heong Tan of Malaysia are their second round opponents.
The second Indian pair - Akshay Dewalkar and Arun Vishnu Sivaranjan - have a potentially easy first round encounter against Sri Lankans Dinuka Karunaratna and Niluka Karunaratne before South Korean third seeds Jaesung Chung and Yongdae Lee
stand in their way.