Saina Nehwal’s ascent to the World No. 1 ranking will be a much talked-about event at the upcoming India Open which will also see the debut of Chinese superstar Lin Dan. India’s only Superseries tournament which kicks off at the Siri Fort Complex in New Delhi on 24th March, is set to witness a momentous occasion in Indian sports. Saina Nehwal might just rewrite record books as she aims to become the first Indian woman shuttler to be ranked #1 in a week’s time.
The big ranking change
Incidentally, the only woman who can stop her is none other than her conqueror at the All England Open final – Carolina Marin. The badminton world has been talking about this change as it will also mark the first time in more than four years that a non-Chinese woman will be at the helm of the rankings.
As the current World No. 1 and last year’s India Open runner-up Li Xuerui is skipping the 2015 tournament, she is set to concede 7800 points. Saina participated in 13 events in the preceding 52 weeks compared to Li’s 9. The World No. 2 Nehwal is now at 74381 ranking points whereas Li is at 79214 points. Thus when the points are dropped from the Chinese’s ranking tally, Saina has a clear advantage.
However, the in-form Carolina Marin who is now the World No. 4 and the second seed at the India Open can challenge Nehwal for the top spot. If the Olympic bronze medallist falls in the quarters and Marin reaches the final or if the Spaniard wins the title while Saina fails to make the final, are the only scenarios in which Saina Nehwal would not be able to get the #1 ranking.
Lin Dan – top attraction in men’s draw
Five-time World Champion and two-time Olympic gold medallist Lin Dan will be participating at the India Open for the first time. The Chinese superstar’s debut is welcome news for the countless badminton fans in the country who will get a chance to watch the revered shuttler up close.
Kidambi Srikanth leads Indian men’s challenge
It will also be a great opportunity to see some intriguing clashes between the Chinese and the rising Indian brigade. Kidambi Srikanth who is in fine form after his Swiss Open triumph is slated for a potential final meeting with the legend. It will be interesting to see the battle once again after Srikanth toppled Dan in his own backyard at the China Open last year.
World No. 35 Ajay Jayaram is brimming with confidence after a semi-final appearance at the Swiss Open. 17th-ranked HS Prannoy is one of the fastest-rising shuttlers who can take out a few big names. The India Open will also see the return of a fit-again Parupalli Kashyap. The Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold winner who has just recovered from a hamstring injury is now raring to go.
Let us have a look at the draw of the top Indian players
Saina has a relatively easy draw where she starts against a qualifier and can face national champion Ruthvika Shivani in the second round. In the quarters and semis her likely opponents are eighth seed Pai Yu Po and fourth seed Liu Xin respectively. The summit clash sets her up against All England Open champion Carolina Marin which will be the Indian’s toughest test.
Second seed Kidambi Srikanth begins his campaign versus Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk against whom he is tied 1-1. It could get trickier from there as he will be next up against Kento Momota who beat him at the All England Open. Wang Zhengming awaits in the quarters while Parupalli Kashyap can meet him in semis. Lin Dan, being in the other half can only clash against Srikanth in the final.
Parupalli Kashyap’s road gets equally tough with Taipei’s Hsu Jen Hao in the opener. Like Srikanth, he too has a potential second round encounter with his All England Open conqueror – Chou Tien Chen. If he can get past Chen, the path ahead has fifth seeded Dane Hans-Kristian Vittinghus against whom he holds a 3-1 record.
HS Prannoy and Ajay Jayaram
HS Prannoy takes on Misha Zilberman of Israel in the opener while Ajay Jayaram locks horns with 14th-ranked Hu Yun. Ajay upset Hu Yun in the Swiss Open first round recently.
World No. 27 Manu Attri/B Sumeeth Reddy face a tough opener against 5th-ranked Japanese pair of Hiroyuki Endo/Kenichi Hayakawa. World No. 37 Pranaav Jerry Chopra/Akshay Dewalkar too have an uphill task against 8th-ranked Chinese duo of Chai Biao/Hong Wei.
Top Indian pairing of Jwala Gutta/Ashwini Ponnappa face Ou Dongni/Xiaohan Yu of China while Polish Open champions Pradnya Gadre/N Sikki Reddy take on Koreans Chang Ye Na/Yoo Hae Won in the opener.
India No. 1 duo of Aparna Balan/Arun Vishnu start against Taipei’s Chi-Lin Wang/Cheng Chi Ya. Ashwini Ponnappa who has teamed up with Pranaav Jerry Chopra has the tough job of getting past fifth seeds Mads Pieler Kolding/Kamilla Rytter Juhl. Meanwhile, Polish Open runners-up Dewalkar/Gadre have a comparatively easier job as they start against a qualifying team.
Sports Rediscovered wishes all the Indian players best of luck as they begin their quest at the India Open.