Saina Nehwal looked good in the last Superseries -- India Open -- though she lost in the semifinal to Li Xuerui. While the top-ranked India shuttler is gunning for the Malaysia Open title, she needs to defeat South Korean Bae Yeon Ju in the second round, Thursday, before playing against tougher opponents in the Superseries in the coming days.
Saina should not have much trouble in defeating Bae Yeon Ju, and should reach the quarterfinals of the Malaysia Open like her peer PV Sindhu. Saina will be under pressure to reach the quarters after Sindhu stunned Sung Ji Hyun, playing some brilliant badminton.
Saina and Bae Yeon are no strangers to one another as they have faced off 12 times in the past. Saina should be a confident player against Bae Yeon Ju, who has lost eight times and won only four. Bae Yeon will be looking for a huge upset in the Malaysia Open, while Saina is expected to progress in the competition.
The India shuttler is a world-class player, and if she plays her normal game, she should reach the quarterfinal of the Malaysia Open. Her performance in the first round was of good quality, defeating Nitchaon Jindapol in straight games, 21-16, 21-7.
Saina was troubled by injuries for the last quarter of the year and the starting of the year as well. Though she played some competitions late last year with pain, Saina missed out in some competition early this year.
However she did look decent in the All-England Open, and even better in the India Open last week. She lacked quick movement in the court during the All England, but her performances in the India Open, with good footwork, must have given her further encouragement to play better in the Malaysia Open, and clinch the title.
With this year being an Olympic year, players are eager to improve their ranking. Top players should be careful so that their ranking does not drop. Saina's ranking has dropped to six, and a title in Malaysia can improve her rankings. Saina is India's biggest hope for a medal in the Rio Olympics.
The winner of the second round clash between Saina and Bae Yeon will meet Porntip Buranapras in the quarterfinals, Friday.
Where to watch live
Saina Nehwal vs Bae Yeon Ju (4:40 p.m IST)*
Malaysia Open Superseries can be followed live in India on Start Sports 2/HD with live streaming option on starsports.com.
*The match timings could change, depending on the conclusion of other matches.