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Saina leads record Indian field

Olympic bronze medallist Saina Nehwal will return to Great Britain with a renewed hope of clinching the prestigious All England title but a tough draw awaits her in the women’s singles of the Super Series Premier event, which starts with the qualifiers on Tuesday.

Ever since 2007, Saina has been playing in the $400,000 All England Championship and her best performance so far is a semifinal finish at the 2010 edition. In the last two years, Saina reached the quarterfinals of the event before being humbled by lower-ranked players and the second seeded Indian will have to be on her guard this year as well.

The Commonwealth Games gold medallist will open her campaign against Sapsiree Taerattanachai of Thailand. The Indian has played her four times and always had an upper hand but in their last encounter at Korea Open, the Thai girl had stretched Saina to three games.

If she clears the first hurdle, the 22-year-old will next take on Minatsu Mitani of Japan, who had spoilt her French Open title hopes when she beat the Indian at the finals. Even though Saina has beaten her thrice in the past, she needs to be careful of the Japanese. If she can cross the second hurdle as well, then it will be either sixth seed Shixian Wang or Yanjiao Jiang in the quarterfinals. For the records, Saina holds a 3-1 advantage against Shixian but all the wins have been three-game affairs.

However, Saina is likely to prefer Shixian over Jiang as she beaten the world number 12 in their five encounters. ‘The draw is tough, it always happens that way. But I will try my best to come up well. I took all the practice in good direction. I have a little knee problem, otherwise I am alright,’ Saina said.

In men’s singles, world number 11 Parupalli Kashyap will open his campaign against Jen Hao Hsu of Chinese Taipei and will likely take on Japan’s Kenichi Tago, seeded seventh, in the second round if he manages to cross the opening hurdle.If Kashyap crosses the second round as well then he is likely to lock horns against second seed Chen Long of China.
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