Saina hopes to seal Olympic berth in Indian Open

By Saumojyoti Singha Choudhury, IANS

New Delhi : National badminton champion Saina Nehwal is undeterred by the prospect of facing world’s top stars in next month’s Indian Open Grand Prix as it may be a great chance for her to seal an Olympic berth.

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The Indian Open in Hyderabad April 1-6 is second last qualifying tournament for the Oympics and Saina is banking on it heavily to get into the world’s top-30 ranking and snatch an Olympic berth.

After the Indian Open, there will be just one more such tournament – Asian Championships to be held at Johor Bahru, Malaysia April 15-20 – which will have qualifying points on offer.

April 30 is the D-day for Saina and if she is in the top-30 of world rankings on that date she will be on the flight to Beijing in August.

The Indian Open is expected to be a stiff test as the field will include the world’s top three players, Xie Xingfang, Zhang Ning and Zhu Lin.

“I have played against most of the top players. On my day I can definitely beat anyone. I am not scared and I will have the home advantage to notch up a few upsets at the Indian Open,” Saina told IANS.

Saina, ranked 31, dropped three places after making a first round exit in the All England Badminton Championship earlier this month.

However, a second round finish at the Swiss Open last week should see Saina make an upward move. “I am sure I will return to the top 30 once the rankings are updated this week after taking into account the Swiss Open performance,” said Saina.

“In both the European tournaments I played very well, specially against Yu Hirayama of Japan in the All England championship. My performance of late has nothing to do with the dip in my ranking. I played in the pre-quarterfinals in All England last year, but this year I lost in the first round.”

AT the Indian Open Saina is hoping the home support will help her score an upset or two.

“The Indian Open is a very important tournament for me. I am confident of a good show at the Indian Open. If I play well there and progress to the third round I will jump further high in the rankings. This will not only seal my Olympic berth but will ensure a good draw too,” said Saina.