Lin Dan, Lee Chong Wei lend class to strongest India Open field

The epic clashes between the two in the 2012 Olympic Games and the 2013 World championship are part of the game’s folkloreand both, along with Chen Long, are being seen as potential podium-finishers in Rio.

The presence of Lin Dan (R) and Lee Chong Wei, seeded to clash in the men’s semi-finals, is sure to witness packed house at the Siri Fort Indoor Stadium.   -  AP

With just over a month to go for the Olympic qualification cut-off date of May 5, the cream of the crop of the badminton world is busy preparing to consolidate its claim in the limited field in Rio.

Even virtual certainties like two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan and silver medallist Lee Chong Wei – ranked two and three in the World – are also not taking any chances. They are due to play a series of events in April – Malaysia Open, Singapore Open, China Masters and the Asian Championship – in search of ranking points. As a result, the $300,000 India Open starting here on Tuesday has gained tremendously.

In the singles, all eight seeds in both sections are part of the world’s top-10 list. Among the men, World No. 1 Chen Long has stayed away but the next eight players are here. The ladies singles has attracted the top six players, headed by World No. 1 Spain’s Carolina Marin, a two-time World champion.

The current World No. 6 and defending champion Saina Nehwal is seeded second – going by the rankings as on March 3 – in a very tough field that has World No. 12 P. V. Sindhu taking on the Carolina in the first round.

For the record, the line-up also includes Olympic champion Li Xuerui, former World champion Ratchanok Intanon and 2010 Asian Games and 2014 All England champion Wang Shixian.

The presence of Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei, seeded to clash in the men’s semi-finals, is sure to witness packed house at the Siri Fort Indoor Stadium. Their epic clashes in the 2012 Olympic Games and the 2013 World championship are part of the game’s folklore. These two greats of the game, along with Chen Long, are being seen as potential podium-finishers in Rio.

From the Indian perspective, defending champion K. Srikanth is unseeded here after slipping to 10th in World rankings. He faces World No. 7 China’s Tian Houwei in the first round. Commonwealth Games gold medallist P. Kashyap has been struggling for form and fitness. Should Kashyap get past a yet-to-be-identified qualifier, he faces the first-round winner of the match between World No. 6 Denmark’s Victor Alexsen and Hong Kong’s Hu Yun.

B. Sai Praneeth, who upstaged Lee Chong Wei in the All England this month, heads the seeding in the qualifying rounds, to be played on Tuesday. Among those playing the qualifiers are, R. M. V. Gurusaidutt, Anand Pawar and Sameer Verma.