The hope of India lies in just one player, as 1.2 billion people will support Saina Nehwal in her quest for a gold medal in London. She has thrived in the pressure situations, winning a Commonwealth gold medal on hope soil two years ago and a junior world championship in 2008 as well as reaching the final in 2006 at just 16.
Her previous venture at the Olympics saw her reach the quarter finals, as a relative unknown in the badminton world. At that time she was Junior World Champion and reached the last 8 before a loss to eventual bronze medalist Maria Kristin Yulianti. At 22, she will arrive in London as the Commonwealth champion and already an experience at the Olympics from Beijing four years previously.
She will enter the 2012 Olympics as the form player in the world, winning the Super Series Premier event in Indonesia and Thailand Open title in her final two events before the Olympics.
Can She Defeat The Chinese?
Her record against Wang Yihan and Wang Xin (ranked 1 and 2 in the world) is undoubtably poor. She has never defeated Wang Yihan in five occasions, despite a match point in Indonesia last year. Her record against Wang Xin is a deceptive 4-2 in favour of the Chinese player, but both of Nehwal’s victories have came in their three most recent meetings. Her record against the third Chinese player selected for London, Wang Shixian is 3-1 in favour of the Indian, with Wang Shixian’s sole victory coming almost two years ago in the 2010 World’s in Paris. Due to her seeding in London of 4, she will not meet a Chinese player until the semi final stages in all likelihood.
Can She Defeat The Europeans?
A likely quarter final against Juliane Schenk or Tine Baun will await Saina Nehwal, for which the Indian has a relatively good record against both. She has a 5-3 head to head against Schenk, with the German taking their last encounter in Japan last year in two games. Schenk is also in excellent form, taking the Singapore Open title last month. Tine Baun has won three of their six encounters, with Nehwal taking the two most recent encounters in tight matches. A quarter final against Baun would be preferable to Schenk.
Can She Win Gold?
A favourable draw would be needed, avoiding Schenk in the quarter finals would be a boost with the Indian having a good record against other potential quarter final opponents (Inthanon Ratchanok, Cheng Shao Chieh and Sung Ji Hyun) and a semi final draw against Wang Xin or Wang Shixian would be desirable. The biggest question is if she can beat Wang Yihan, which is entirely possible with the world number 1′s erratic form this year. Losses to Li Xuerui on three separate occasions as well as Jiang Yanjiao will fuel the 22-year olds belief that she can win Olympic gold.