News of shock defeats of two of her possible hurdles to the title, Chinese top seed and Olympic champion Li Xuerui and third seed Wang Yihan, a former World No 1, only paved the way for what could be the Indian’s best chance to go for her maiden All England title.
Saina made an earnest start towards that goal with a 21-8 18-21 21-16 win over Sapsiree Taerattanachai of Thailand in the women’s singles first round, bringing cheer to the Indian camp that earlier saw some of the doubles pairs bowing out from the first round of the main draw. It was not an easy outing for Saina as she was made to toil before surviving the near one-hour duel.
Saina now extends her domination over the Thai World No 20 to five wins in five matches. Coincidentally, Saina opened her 2012 All England campaign with a three-game victory over the same opponent, who also stretched the Indian in the first round of the Korea Open in January this year.
In the mixed doubles first round, Tarun Kona and Ashwini Ponnappa lost tamely to the Indonesian duo of Fran Kurniawan and Shendy Puspa Irawati 18-21 10-21 in just 24 minutes. Another duo of Akshay Dewalkar and Pradnya Gadre, qualifiers, too made a first-round exit, losing to Malaysian pair of Jian Guo Ong and Yin Loo Lim 8-21 13-21.
On Tuesday, World No 43 Sourabh Varma defeated England’s Rajiv Ouseph to enter the men’s singles main draw. The 22-year-old Varma beat Ouseph, ranked 34th, in the second round of qualifying 21-13 21-18 in a 32-minute contest.
Varma was slated to face Indonesia’s World No 26 Dionysius Hayom Rumbaka in the first round on Wednesday night.
Main draw (first round): Women’s singles: Saina Nehwal bt Sapsiree Taera-ttanachai (THA) 21-8 18-21
21-16; Mixed doubles: Tarun Kona/ Ashwini Ponnappa lost to Fran Kurniawan/ Shendy Puspa Irawati (INA) 18-21 10-21, Akshay Dewalkar/ Pradnya Gadre lost to Jian Guo Ong/ Yin Loo Lim (MAS) 8-21 13-21
Qualifiers (Rd 2): Men’s singles: Sourabh Varma bt R Ouseph (ENG) 21-13 21-18; Men’s doubles: Pranaav Jerry Chopra/ Akshay Dewalkar lost to Bodin Issara/ P Vilailak (THA) 14-21 10-21; Women’s doubles: Pradnya Gadre/ Ashwini Ponn-appa lost to L Smith/ G White (ENG) 13-21 13-21; Mixed doubles: Akshay Dewalkar/ P Gadre bt Chun Hei Lee/ Hoi Wah Chau (HKG) 22-24 21-14 21-18