Birmingham: All eyes will be on Indian ace Saina Nehwal when she returns to the court after an injury lay-off at the All England Championship, hoping to better last year's runner-up finish at the prestigious event which begins with the qualifiers here today.
Saina Nehwal. Pic/AFP
In pursuit of achieving her full fitness ahead of a hectic Olympic year, Saina skipped a series of tournaments, including the Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold, but the World No. 2 Indian will now be back in the reckoning as she spearheads the challenge here.
"Unfortunately I could not play any tournament this year because of a nagging ankle injury and a recurrent viral infection. But now I am perfectly all right and my fitness level is also good. I had a good training session and I would give my best in this event," said Saina, who would take on Commonwealth Games champion Michelle Li of Canada in the main draw on Wednesday.
Two-time bronze medallist at World Championship, India's P V Sindhu too will hope to turn around her dwindling form when she takes on Thailand's Porntip Buranaprasertsuk in her tournament opener.
Among the India men shuttlers in fray, World No. 10 Kidambi Srikanth will face Commonwealth Games silver medallist Rajiv Ouseph in his opening round. H S Prannoy, who has slipped to World No. 26, will look for a good outing to boost his rankings when he takes on China's Xue Song in his first-round match.
Commonwealth Games champion Parupalli Kashyap, who had fought a series of injuries since last year to keep his hopes of qualifying for the Olympics alive, received a severe blow last week when he injured his knee at German Open and he will be forced to skip the All England.
World No. 21 Ajay Jayaram, meanwhile, will count his chances to qualify for the Rio Games but the Mumbai-born shuttler will have to put up a good show to get inside the top 16 by the May deadline. He will take on Hong Kong's Ng Ka Long Angus in the first round.
In men's doubles, Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy will face the formidable Malaysian duo of Kien Keat Koo and Boon Heong Tan in the opening round. 2010 Commonwealth Games champions Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa will meet Dutch combo of Samantha Barning and Iris Tabeling in the women's doubles event.