London contenders eye ranking points for Oly in ABC
Ace Indian shuttler Saina Nehwal is already assured of a berth but five of her compatriots are still in the running for a berth in the London Olympics and would look to gain as many ranking points as they can in this tournament followed by the India Open, to be held from April 24-29, before the May 3 deadline.
The world number five Indian is on a mission to earn some psychological mileage by defeating the top Chinese shuttlers and she would stuck to her work when she starts her campaign against Japan`s Kaori Imabeppu. The 22-year-old has a reasonable draw and is likely to meet second seed Chinese Xin Wang in the quarterfinals. This would be an important tournament for the Indian ace as she would look to test her speed after losing over 5kgs recently.
In the men`s singles, it is a two-way battle between world number 27 Ajay Jayaram and P Kashyap, ranked 31st and the duo would start their campaign against Chinese Taipei`s Jen Hao Hsu and second seed Chen Long of China, respectively.
Top Indian doubles player Jwala Gutta is in running for an Olympic berth in two categories – womens doubles and mixed doubles. The 28-year-old from Hyderabad will pair up with Ashwini Ponnappa in women`s doubles as the World number 20 combo opens their campaign against Vita Marissa and Nadya Melati of Indonesia.
"We have been practising with Arif Sir and it has been a good session. We worked hard and we would look to be just calm mentally on court," Ashwini said.
Jwala will also combine with her mixed doubles partner V Diju to take on Indonesian pair of Riky Widianto and Puspita Richi Dili in their tournament-opener.
The pair is ranked 16th right now and would look to hold their position when the ranking is decided on May 3.
Even though he is still ahead in the running for a berth, Jayaram said he has to be more consistent if he wants to realise his dream of playing in the Olympics.
"Olympics is a dream and I will give my everything to earn a place. I played well last year, where I have beaten some top players and had also come close to beating some. But I have to be more consistent," Jayaram said.
Kashyap said it would be tough to bridge the gap with his compatriot but he believes it all depends on the performance of that particular day. "I had a very hectic schedule and hardly got any time to practice. The few days that I got before the tournament, I tried to relax and work on some areas. It all depends who is stronger on that particular day and I would like to count my chances," he said.
Among other Indians, HS Prannoy will meet seventh seed Tien Minh Nguyen of Vietnam, Sameer Verma will clash against fourth seed Simon Santoso of Indonesia and Sai Praneeth will take on Niluka Karunaratne in the men`s singles.
In women`s doubles, Pradnya Gadre and Prajakta Sawant will face Chinese Taipei`s Kai Hsin Chiang and Pei-Ling Tsai at the Qingdao Sports Centre Conson Stadium.
Pranav Chopra and Prajakta Sawant will clash with Noriyasu Hirata and Miyuki Maeda of Japan in the mixed doubles, while Akshay Dewalkar and Pradnya Gadre will take on Ki Jung Kim and Kyung Eun Jung. Another Indian pair of Tarun and Ashwini will meet a qualifier.
In men`s doubles, Tarun Kona and Arun Vishnu will be up against the top seed Biao Chai and Zhendong Guo, while top Indian pair of Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas will take on Korean pair of Ki Jung Kim and Sa Rang Kim in their first round match. Pranav Chopra and Akshay Dwalkar will take on sixth seed Hiroyuki Endo and Kenichi Hayakawa of Japan.