Indian hope Saina Nehwal will start her quest for an Olympic medal against unheralded Sabrina Jaquet of Switzerland on July 28 in the womens badminton singles event in the London Games. The draw event for the London Olympic Games badminton event was held on Monday at the Main Press Center of the Olympic Park in London and Saina was clubbed in Group E along with Sabrina and Lianne Tan of Belgium. The 22-year-old Indian,who had reached the quarterfinals in 2008 Beijing Olympics,is one of the front-runners to win the gold,beside the top three Chinese players.
Saina,who won two successive titles at Thailand Grand Prix Gold and Indonesia Superseries last month,is likely to play 14th seed Yao Jie of The Netherlands (Group F) in the pre-quarterfinals.
The world No.5 Hyderabadi is expected to face some tough competition in the quarterfinals as she is likely to take on either two-time All England Champion Tine Baun (Group G),seeded fifth,or 12th seed Japanese Sayaka Sato (Group H).
In the mens singles,world No.21 P Kashyap has been clubbed with 10th seed Vietnamese Nguyen Tien Minh and Tan Yuhan of Belgium in Group D. The Commonwealth bronze medallist Indian has beaten Nguyen twice in the past,while against Tan,he holds a 1-1 record. Going by his recent form,Kashyap is likely to top the group and take on eighth seed Japanese Kenichi Tago (Group C) in the round of the 16.
In the womens doubles,Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa have been placed with fourth seeded Japanese pair of Mizuki Fujii and Reika Kakiiwa,Cheng Wen Hsing and Chien Yu Chin of Chinese Taipei and Singapores Shinta Sari Mulia and Yao Lei in Group B. The Indian pair has a 1-2 record against the Japanese duo,while they lost thrice to the Singapore combo.
In mixed doubles competition,V Diju and Jwala Gutta have been clubbed in Group C along with third seed Indonesians Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir,Danes Thomas Laybourn and Kamilla Rytter Juhl and Koreans Lee Yong Dae and Ha Jung Eun. The world number four Indonesian pair has beaten the Indian duo once,while eighth-ranked Danish combo has a 2-0 record against Jwala and Diju. With the Korean combo,the Indians have a 1-1 record.
The badminton event will start on Saturday at the Wembley Arena. In the singles,only the 16 group winners will qualify for the pre-quarterfinals.
In the doubles,the top two each from the four groups will qualify for the quarter-finals.
Hidayat,Dan set to clash
Taufik Hidayat,former Olympic champion who is one of badmintons big four,could have an earlier than expected end to his famous career at the 2012 Games. The Indonesian who took the mens singles gold medal in Athens eight years ago may also be ousted by the man who has been described as his arch-rival,Lin Dan,the defending Olympic champion from China.
These two greats are drawn in adjoining groups and would meet in the last 16 if,as expected,Lin beats Scott Evans,the world No. 76 from Ireland,and Hidayat overcomes Pablo Abian,the world No. 34 from Spain,and Petr Koukal,the world No. 78 from the Czech Republic.
Mondays draw at the Olympic Park also pitted top-seeded Lee Chong Wei,who lost to Lin in the Beijing Olympic final,against Ville Lang of Finland. Third-seeded Chen Long will meet Boonsak Ponsana of Thailand,who won the Singapore Open last month,and Chinese teammate Chen Jin,who reached the worlds top four in April to qualify for London,was placed in Lins half of the draw.