|London, July 28: Saina Nehwal begins her pursuit of India's elusive badminton Olympic medal at the London Games on Sunday against Swiss Sabrina Jaquet in the first round of the women's singles at the Wembley Arena.
At the 2008 Beijing Games, Saina narrowly missed a medal after she lost her quarter-final match to Indonesian Maria Kristin Yulianti, who went on to take the bronze.
It was a big achievement for the 18-year-old Saina then. But in the four years, she has emerged as one of the top international players and the first Indian to take World No.2 slot.
Currently she is World No.5 and seeded fourth. She is seen as a definite medal prospect and is determined too. Even the draw looks kind to her, though she herself believes that there is nothing called an easy round at major events.
"The draw looks quite tough. I've played them before and they have given me a tough challenge. I expect good matches and I will take one match at a time," Saina said.
"I have developed as a player. This is my second Olympics and I am more experienced now and I know how to relax. I don't want to put too much pressure on myself," said the 22-year-old.
The ace shuttler, who recently won the Indonesia Open Super Series Premier, is expected to face stiff challenge from groupmate Belgian Lianne Tan and two-time All England champion Tine Baun of Denmark in a possible quarter-final clash. She has a 3-3 head-to-head record against Baun.
If Saina is through to the medal round, she will run into China's World No.1 Yihan Wang in the semis whom she has never beaten in their previous five encounters.
"Let us see what happens. I will give my 100 percent in every match," Saina said when asked if she was confident of beating Wang this time.
Sunday will also see women's doubles specialists Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa start their Olympic campaign as they take on World No.10 Cheng Wen Hsing and Chien Yu Chin of Chinese Taipei.
It is the same pair whom Jwala and Ashwini had defeated in the second round of the World Championships last year where they went on to win the bronze. They cannot be taken lightly as the medal they won last year was at this very Wembley Arena.
However, their real test will come against fourth seeds Mizuki Fujii and Reika Kakiiwa of Japan who also are placed in their group.
In doubles, two of four teams from each of the four groups are to advance to the quarter-finals and the Indian duo can expect a medal provided they play to their potential.(IANS)