It won’t be an easy journey in the Rio Olympics for Saina Nehwal, who is India’s best hope now, if not the only one, to win a medal. The same applies to teammate PV Sindhu in the other half of the draw.
Opens against: Lohaynny Vicente on August 11 at 7.50 pm
Saina Nehwal, seeded fifth in Brazil, is placed in Group G, which includes Ukraine’s Maria Ulitina, ranked 61st in the world, and Brazil’s Lohaynny Vicente, ranked 74th. Nehwal is expected to easily clear the group and progress to the knockout round, where she could be up against Thailand’s Porntip Buranaprasetsuk, seeded 12th. With a clear head-to-head of 9-1 against the Thai, Nehwal is expected to progress to the quarterfinal as well, where her opponent could be the far more formidable defending champion Li Xuerui.
In 14 meetings, Li has outfoxed Nehwal 12 times, with the Indian winning just two times. If Nehwal triumphs, world No 1 Carolina Marin of Spain will be a possible opponent in the semifinal. Both women are evenly matched— in seven contests, Nehwal has won four while Marin has pocketed three. If Nehwal potentially makes the singles final on August 19, she would have cleared a very tricky field to get there.
Opens against: Karin Schnaase on August 11, 6.40 pm
Sindhu, currently ranked 10th, was drawn in Group M with Canada’s Michelle Li (ranked 20) and Hungary’s Laura Sarosi (64th) She opens her debut Olympic campaign against Sarosi, who surprised everyone by giving a pair of spare shoes to her opponent Karin Schnaase when the latter broke hers midway through a European Championship match. Her next match will see her up against a trickier player in Li.
If the lanky Indian clears the group, she could face eighth-seed Tai Tzu Ying from Taiwan— the pair has never played before. A potential quarterfinal could see Sindhu tackle China’s Wang Yihan, silver medallist in London. Wang holds a 4-2 record over Sindhu in matches. If the Indian manages to defeat her, she could face Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon in the semifinal, who has beaten her at home at the 2013 India Open as well as at the 2013 World Championships. That could be a difficult task unless Sindhu, known for being inconsistent, can set her nerves aside.