India's best bet for a badminton medal at the Asian Games, Saina Nehwal, starts her campaign in the individual competitions at the Tianhe Gymnasium here tomorrow. The 20-year-old was the lone player to win her match in India's first-round defeat to Chinese Taipei in the team competition earlier and would be eager to break the medal drought in her individual capacity. Seeded second behind world number one Wang Xin of China, the Hyderabad star is all primed after her campaign in the team event to make a determined push to the medal podium.
Saina, who came here after winning the women's singles crown at last month's Commonwealth Games, is not going to have it easy here. Given a first round bye she has to play her second round tie tomorrow against the winner of the match between Malaysia's Lydia Cheah and Vietnam's Thi Trang Vu, which is expected to be easy. She is later set to meet sixth seed Yip Pui Yin of Hong Kong, the world number 12, which could be a very tricky encounter.
They have a 1-1 head-to-head record with Saina winning their previous encounter in October 2009 in the Yonex French Super Series in half an hour after having lost to the same Taipei girl in 2007, when she was still finding her feet at the international arena, in the Swiss Open. A potential and very tough match-up with third seed Wang Shixian of China awaits the Indian shuttler in the semifinal. It was the Chinese player who upset Saina's plans in the last world championship in August beating her in the tournament in which Saina was seeded second.
If the Indian avenges her defeat to the Chinese world number four, Saina will have a potential shot at the gold against top seed and title-favourite Wang Xin who has fourth seed Eriko Hirose to contend with in her half of the draw. Aditi Mutatkar is also in the women's singles fray while in men's singles world number 43 Arvind Bhat has an easy opening round encounter tomorrow against Sri Lanka's Niluka Karunaratne. A victory there would pilot him to a likely contest against sixth seed Ponsana Boonsak of Thailand, ranked sixth in the world. P Kashyap, ranked 26 globally, has a tougher initial draw and is to face fifth seed Nguyen Tien Minh, ranked eighth in the world, tomorrow.
Malaysian world number one Chong Wei Lee is the top seed while Beijing Olympic champion and three-time world champion Lin Dan, the world number four, is the number two seed. Former World and Olympic champion and fourth seed Taufik Hidayat, 29, is in the Chinese star's half of the draw, making it a truly world class event.