"I am the defending champion in Denmark. It will be tough but I am ready for the challenge of defending the title," Saina told PTI. "I have been in good form in the IBL. I will give my 100 per cent and I hope to do well in Denmark," added the fourth seeded Indian, who will open her campaign against Bulgaria's Stefani Stoeva, ranked 58 in World, on Wednesday.
The World number four Indian was in supreme form in the inaugural IBL as she finished the tournament unbeaten, having won all seven of her matches. She skipped a few tournaments after that to shake off the tiredness and has now regained her strength to compete with the best. "After the IBL I was tired but I had a good break and I trained hard for the last one and half months and I am fit now," Saina said.
The 23-year-old has not been in the best of form this season and also had some injury concerns and it reflected in her performance as she could only manage quarterfinals and semifinals. So, if she can defend the crown here, it would be her first title of the year. It won't be an easy ride as Saina is likely to face World No. 6 Ji Hyun Sung of South Korea in the quarters and if she keeps her 4-0 record intact then she is expected to be up against top seed Chinese Li Xuerui, who will start her campaign against India's Arundhati Pantawane.
Another Indian in women's singles, World Championships bronze medallist P V Sindhu will face a difficult opponent in World No. 17 Eriko Hirose of Japan in the first round. If the world number 10 Indian can get past her, Sindhu is likely to face World No. 2 and World Champion Intanon Ratchanok of Thailand in the quarterfinals. National chief coach Pullela Gopichand's advise to his wards is to not look at the draw and play freely.
"The preparations are fine and we are expected to do well. I think it is important to just go there and play and not really look at the draw," Gopichand said. In men's singles, World No. 14 Parupalli Kashyap, who is coming back from an ankle injury, will take on the World No. 16 Darren Liew of Malaysia in his tournament opener.
The Indian have a tough road ahead as he will have to beat the Malaysian first and then lorn horns will fifth seed Denmark's Jan O Jorgensen in the second round. In fact, Ajay Jayaram and RMV Gurusaidutt too will have an uphill task ahead. While, Japan Open quarterfinalist Ajay will be up against World No. 8 Boonsak Ponsana of Thailand, World No. 24 Gurusaidutt will meet World No.11 Hu Yun of Hong Kong in the first round.
"It is a Super Series Premier event, so all the top players will be playing the event and everybody will be expected to give their best, so I am not expecting any easy round there," Gopichand said. Star doubles player Jwala Gutta will miss out here after being embroiled in a legal battle with the Badminton Association of India over a life ban she has been threatened with for alleged "disciplinary breach". Jwala was to partner Ashwini in this event. In the qualifiers tomorrow, four Indians will be in action, hoping to make the main draw.
In sizzling form, World No. 32 K Srikanth will take on World No. 69 Christian Lind Thompsen of Denmark, while HS Prannoy, having recovered from his ankle injury, will play Kento Momota of Japan in the first round.
World No. 43 Sourabh Verma will meet World No. 63 Zulfadli Zulkiffli of Malaysia, while Anand Pawar will face local player Quach Flemming in their bid to be one of the four players to qualify for the main draw. In men's doubles competition, World No. 55 Indian pair of Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy will fight it out with World No. 45 German combo of Michael Fuchs and Johannes Schoettler in the first round.