Guru Sai Dutt, Arundhati, Jayaram in qualifying action today
Dev S Sukumar
The Singapore Open Superseries – scene of Saina Nehwal’s second of three successive titles last year – will see a strong Indian presence as the tournament gets underway on Tuesday. The Indian world No.4 will have to beat off a strong field to defend her title, and if she manages to do that, she will have won her first Superseries title of 2011.
Saina has had uneven form over the past few weeks. While she has beaten several of her top challengers, including top Chinese like world champion Wang Lin, world No.2 Wang Xin, and Lu Lan, she hasn’t won a tournament since the Swiss Open GP Gold in March. Her next best performance was at the Malaysia Open GP Gold in May, where she lost the final to Wang Xin. A foot injury before the Thailand Open last week had hampered her preparations, but her first round match on Wednesday is against Lu Lan – whom she had beaten in the Thailand Open. With players like Tine Baun, Cheng Shao Chieh and Sayaka Sato in her quarter, Saina has a difficult path into the quarterfinals.
Compatriot Arundhati Pantwane will play the first round of qualifying against Chen Hsiao Huan of Taipei, a tough opponent who could offer a stiff test first up. Guru Sai Dutt and Ajay Jayaram will also be in qualifying action on Tuesday – Guru against Hsuan Yi Hsueh (Taipei) and Jayaram against Hafiz Hashim (Malaysia) – who he should beat, for the 2003 All England champion has been on the wane. P Kashyap is due to play former Asian champion Park Sung Hwan of Korea, who reached the semifinals of the Thailand Open. Kashyap’s compatriot Sourabh Verma had stretched Park in the quarterfinals of the Thailand Open, and if Kashyap can go one better, he will have achieved one of the biggest victories of his career.
In the men’s doubles, Rupesh Kumar/ Sanave Thomas have tough first round opponents in Hiroyuki Endo/ Kenichi Hayakawa, while Jwala Gutta/ Ashwini Ponnappa have even more difficult opponents in Danes Christina Pedersen/ Kamilla Rytter-Juhl.