Saina Nehwal is India's best hope for a medal in the Rio Olympics, and the Indian shuttler is preparing for the quadrennial event by competing against some of the best players in the Indonesia Open. Saina will face 17-year-old Fitriani Fitriani in the second round of the superseries event in Thursday.
Though Saina has slipped down to world number eight, she is still one of the most-feared shuttlers around. It is primarily due to her injuries that the former world number one's ranking went down. But Saina has looked good in the last few tournaments, including the Uber Cup last month, where she played an integral role in helping India win a bronze medal.
As for her second-round match-up against the Indonesian, Saina should not have much trouble getting past Fitriani, who is ranked number 53 in the world. The Indonesian player defeated Gregoria Mariska in a three-game affair, with the score reading 21-14, 13-21, 21-16, but Fitriani is aware of the ask when she faces a skilled player like Saina, which is a different matter altogether.
They have faced off only once so far, with Saina emerging victorious during the Badminton Asia Championship 2016 in April, defeating Fitriani, 21-16, 21-17. Saina does not take any opponent lightly, which is a great characteristic of the Indian, and something that can be expected from her on Thursday as well.
Saina played some good badminton to defeat Pai Yu Po in three games, but she was tested by her opponent, who took the match to a third game. Saina defeated Po 21-11, 19-21, 21-15. She needs to play better in order to defeat Fitriani, and is a huge favourite. The Indian star can use such matches to prepare for the tough Indonesia Open fixtures in the business end of the competition.
Saina, who wants to win the Indonesia Open, can set up a possible date with Carolina Marin in the quarterfinal, with a victory against Fitriani.
Where to watch live
Saina Nehwal vs Fitriani Fitriani is scheduled for 3:30p.m IST, but the timings of the match may change depending on earlier fixtures.
Indian viewers can watch Indonesia Open 2016 live in Star Sports 2 with live streaming on starsports.com.
The live scores of the matches can also be found HERE.