For all badminton lovers around the world, the wait is over as the Yonex-Sunrise Asian Badminton Championships, second in prestige only to the World Championships, gets underway here at the Siri Fort Sports Complex.
And there are no prizes for guessing the favourite of the tournament.
India’s badminton queen Saina Nehwal, who recently broke into the top-5 of the world rankings, is the top seed and the crowd favourite in the women’s singles draw. She will be looking to get off to a strong start when she meets Porntip Buranaprasertsuk of Thailand in the first round.
All those looking to catch her in action though, will have to stick around till the end of Day 1 as the marquee clash has been scheduled at the fag end of the day’s play and will start only around 7.30pm.
The last year proved fruitful for the world No. 5 shuttler; apart from making the All-England semifinals, a first for an Indian woman, Saina also guided the women’s team to their first ever Uber Cup finals.
“2009 has been a good year for me and I will try to extend the same form into the Asians as well,” Saina said.
So what is she expecting here? “A tough fight,” she replies. “That is all that I expect. The top Chinese aren’t here, which is a respite. But look at the other players. I am sure the shuttlers who have replaced their top three won’t be easy,” said Saina.
If she gets past the first hurdle, she squares up against the winner between India’s Trupti Murugunde and Malaysia’s Julia Pei Xian Wong, a match that national coach Pullela Gopichand had something to say about.
“Trupti is in form and Julia has beaten Saina in the past. Despite it being a second round clash, it’s not going to be smooth sailing for her.”
In the men’s section, the absence of top Chinese shuttlers, like, Chen Long, Pengue Du and India’s world No. 18 Chetan Anand has left the field somewhat depleted.
But, waiting to set the courts alight are world No. 2 Lin Dan, world No. 5 Taufik Hidayat and this year’s All-England semifinalist Kenichi Tago; a line-up that promises some mouth-watering battles.
So the tickets have been sold and the arena is set. But for those of you badminton die-hards who are still desperately searching for the tickets.
Here’s a piece of information that may help. You can buy tickets online on www.bookmyshow.com, or get one at the venue itself.