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Saina eyes podium finish in Worlds

Saina eyes podium finish  in Worlds
Highlights

Bolstered by a favourable draw, a fit-again Saina Nehwal will look to record her maiden podium finish when she leads the country's strongest ever...

Bolstered by a favourable draw, a fit-again Saina Nehwal will look to record her maiden podium finish when she leads the country's strongest ever squad at the 2013 BWF World Championships to be played here from August 5-11. A medal at the World Championships has eluded Saina so far as she could only reach the quarterfinals in the last two editions in 2009 and 2011. The 23-year-old from Hyderabad will look to better her record this time around.

The world number three has been going through a lean patch for the last nine months as she has failed to win a single tournament but a six-week break after the Southeast Asian circuit in June has given the Indian ample time to regain fitness.

Luck also seems to be at her side as she has got a bye in the first round and will open her campaign against the winner of Russian Olga Golovanova (ranked 66) and Bulgarian Alesia Zaitsava (ranked 104). Saina is likely to meet her first challenger in Thai Porntip Buranaprasertsuk, who is ranked No.18 in the world but she has never beaten Saina in five career meetings.

The London Olympics bronze medallist may face either Japanese Minatsu Mitani (ranked 10th) or Korean Bae Yeon Ju (ranked 16th) in the quarterfinals. Though Saina has a 3-1 record against Mitani and a 5-2 advantage against Bae, the Indian would need to be careful against them if she has to win at least a bronze at the Worlds.

According to the tournament rules, any player reaching the semi-finals is assured of a bronze medal.

"There were doubts in my mind in June as I was not 100 per cent fit but I have been working very hard for the last few weeks," said Saina, whose first real challenge in the event would come only in the semifinals where Olympic gold medallist Li Xuerui of China is likely to be waiting for her.

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