London: Indian ace Saina Nehwal will start her quest for an Olympic medal against unheralded Sabrina Jaquet of Switzerland on July 28 in the women’s badminton singles event in the London Games.
The draw for the London Olympic Games badminton event was held on Monday at the Main Press Center of the Olympic Park in London and Saina was clubbed in Group E along with Sabrina and Lianne Tan of Belgium.
The 22-year-old Indian, who had reached the quarter finals in 2008 Beijing Olympics, is one of the front-runners to win the gold, beside three Chinese players.
Saina, who won two successive titles at Thailand Grand Prix Gold and Indonesia Superseries last month, is likely to play 14th seed Yao Jie of The Netherlands (Group F) in the pre-quarterfinals.
The world No. 5 Hyderabadi is expected to face some tough competition in the quarter finals as she is likely to take on either two-time All England Champion Tine Baun (Group G), seeded fifth, or 12th seed Japanese Sayaka Sato (Group H).
In the men’s singles, world No. 21 P Kashyap has been clubbed with 10th seed Vietnamese Nguyen Tien Minh and Tan Yuhan of Belgium in Group D.
The Commonwealth bronze medallist Indian has beaten Nguyen twice in the past, while against Tan, he holds a 1-1 record. Going by his recent form, Kashyap is likely to top the group and take on eighth seed Japanese Kenichi Tago (Group C) in the round of the 16.
In the women’s doubles, Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa have been placed with fourth seeded Japanese pair of Mizuki Fujii and Reika Kakiiwa, Cheng Wen Hsing and Chien Yu Chin of Chinese Taipei and Singapore’s Shinta Sari Mulia and Yao Lei in Group B.
The Indian pair has a 1-2 record against the Japanese duo, while they lost thrice to the Singapore combo.
In mixed doubles competition, V Diju and Jwala Gutta have been clubbed in Group C along with third seed Indonesians Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir, Danes Thomas Laybourn and Kamilla Rytter Juhl and Koreans Lee Yong Dae and Ha Jung Eun.
The world No. 4 Indonesian pair has beaten the Indian duo once, while eighth-ranked Danish combo has a 2-0 record against Jwala and Diju. With the Korean combo, the Indians have a 1-1 record.
The badminton event will start on Saturday at the Wembley Arena. A total of five events will be contested – men’s singles, women’s singles, men’s doubles, women’s doubles, and mixed doubles.
In the singles, only the 16 group winners will qualify for the pre-quarterfinals.
In the doubles, the top two each from the four groups will qualify for the quarter finals.
Meanwhile, China’s Lin Dan has been drawn on a collision course with bitter rival Taufik Hidayat of Indonesia. Lin will take on unheralded Irishman Scott Evans in his opening round before a potential round of 16 clash with Hidayat.
Hidayat will need to negotiate opening round pool matches against Spaniard Pablo Abian and Petr Koukal as part of the draw released on Monday to set up the grudge match against Lin.
Olympic silver medallist Lee Chong Wei, the top seed in London, takes on world No. 45 Ville Lang of Finland in his first-round match on the way to a likely round of 16 matchup with Indonesia's world number six Simon Santoso.