Saina Nehwal
Saina Nehwal looked good in the recently concluded India Open.IANS

Asian teams like China, Japan, South Korea, Indonesia and India are strong nations in the badminton circuit, producing some sensational players. European nations like Denmark and Spain also have some big names, so the quality of badminton in Rio Olympics will be top class.

Badminton powerhouse China and South Korea have the largest badminton contingent, with 14 players each set to participate in the competition. Like these nations, there are great hopes from India in Rio Olympics, as seven shuttlers have qualified for the quadrennial event.

Without a shadow of doubt, Saina Nehwal is India's best bet for a medal. The shuttler finished with a bronze in London Olympics 2012, and the Indian will be keen for another medal in Rio. Saina might have been impressive in the last couple of years, but injuries have plagued her for a while.

Things seem to have improved of late, as Saina emerged victorious in the Australian Open Superseries last month, which will give her immense confidence to do well in Rio. In the last few tournaments, one witnessed that Saina was playing an aggressive brand of badminton, and her opponents were not able to cope with it. A similar approach could be adopted in the women's singles arena.

Besides Saina, PV SIndhu is the other competitor, who will be keen to shine in Rio. The Indian is making her Olympics debut at a young age of 21 years, but she is still a well-known player, who has already defeated top shuttlers like Li Xuerui and Carolina Marin. On a given day, the ninth seed can defeat any top star in the world, but she has to be consistent throughout the competition to win a medal, which may look difficult, but not impossible.

Though both the players might have some easy group matches, the contest is only going to get much more difficult in the latter stages. With world-class players like Marin, Xuerui, Tai Tzu Ying, Ratchanok Intanon in the fray, the Indian women singles players need to come up with a consistent display to bring home the medal.

All these women's shuttlers have been performing brilliantly for the last couple of years, which makes the field ever-so-competitive. The same can also be said for the male players set to battle for the gold medal in Rio.

Kidambi Srikanth is the lone Indian representative in the singles competition. The ninth seed, like Sindhu, is one of those shuttlers, who have a whole range of shots at disposal, but lacks consistency. The Indian shuttler can defeat top players like Lin Dan, and also lose against a qualifier.

Srikanth, with his height advantage, has a long reach and can cover the length and breadth of the court with his long legs. More importantly, the Indian needs to use all of these and play an A class game in Rio to conjure hope of a medal. There is a huge competitive field of players involved with top shuttlers like Lee Chong Wei, Chen Long, Lin Dan, and Jan O Jorgensen to name a few.

The competition among these international shuttlers is going to be intense, with Lee Chong and Lin Dan as huge favourites. The Chinese shuttler is aiming for a hat-trick of gold medals in Rio Olympics, as he has been impressive in the Beijing and London. In both the instances, Lee Chong lost in the finals. Will we witness the same in Rio as well?

India's competition is not only limited in the singles arena, as Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa will feature in the women's doubles competition. Right from the start, they have a tough task, as the pair will face top seeds, Ayaka Takahashi and Misaki Matsutomo in the group stages.

The Indian pair may have brought glory to India in various events – bronze in 2011 World Championships, gold in 2010 Commonwealth Games – but it is a different matter altogether when it comes to the Olympics, with world's best pair competing including Jung Kyung Eun and Shin Seung Chan.

Indian pairing in the men's doubles competition -- Manu Attri and Sumeth Reddy -- are in Group B of the men's competition, which also includes the second seeds Mohammad Ahsan, Hendra Setiawan (Indonesia) and world number five Chai Biao, Hong Wei ( China), who are both serious contenders for a gold medal. To be fair, they have a tough job in their hands to shine in the group stages as well. Lee Yong Dae and Yoo Yeon Seong (South Korea) Fu Haifeng and Zhang Nan(China) will be the other teams to watch.

There are no competitors for India in the mixed doubles competition. All eyes will be on China's Zhao Yunlei and Zhang Nan, who are world number one in the event.