Dubai: Drawn in the tremendously tough Group 'A' headed by two-time reigning world champion Carolina Marin, India's Saina Nehwal will take on Japan's Nozomi Okuhara in her opening encounter of the Dubai World Badminton Super Series Finals, which open at the Hamdan Sports Complex here today.
The only other Indian who made the cut in this elite event that features eight of the world's best players in five categories, is Kidambi Srikanth, who has been drawn in relatively easier Group 'B' of the men's singles that also features Japan's Kento Momota, Denmark's Viktor Axelsen and Taiwan's Chou Tien Chen.
Srikanth also in contention
Srikanth literally sneaked into the events, after he remained ranked No 9 until the end of all the tournaments on the 2015 circuit. Ironically, he got in at the expense of Malaysia's former World No 1 Lee Chong Wei, who has climbed to No 4 in the world rankings since his return from a doping ban, and also won the last three Super Series tournaments, but sadly lacked the requisite number of ranking points to make the cut.
21-year-old Srikanth will cross swords with Momota in his first group encounter today. He will be followed on court by Saina, who has just emerged from a two-week break to rest a troublesome leg injury.
Saina will have her hands full while dealing with Okuhara, who lost the recent Hong Kong Super Series at the expense of world champion Marin. In fact, the Japanese held three match-points against the Spaniard before succumbing over the extra points in the decider.
On the way to that final, Okuhara had smashed 2013 world champion Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand by a 26-24, 21-6 scoreline, and also accounted in the quarter-final for Taiwan's Tai Tzu Ying — who, incidentally, happens to be the fourth player in Group 'A'.
The other group features the two Wangs — Yihan and Shixian, along with Intanon and South Korea's Sung Ji Hyun.