This is top seed Saina's best chance to start the New Year with a title, given the relatively easy draw. After retiring at match-point from the first round here last season, the World No.8 could come out on top in the field dominated with local players.

The top seed will face Swedish World No.117 Matilda Petersen in Round 1 but her first real challenge will come in the quarterfinals where she is likely to take on Indonesian Bellaetrix Manuputty.

Though Saina has a 3-0 record against the fifth seed, the Hyderabadi has been struggling to find form and will have to bring out her best for a win.

Next up will be Thai third seed Nichaon Jindapon in the semis and Saina's 2-0 record will help her confidence against the Thai. If all goes well, the Olympic bronze medallist will be up against fellow Hyderabadi and second seed P.V. Sindhu in the final.

Though Saina has has two wins against the World Championship bronze medallist in the Indian Badminton League (IBL), they are yet to play in an official Badminton World Federation (BWF) tournament. But given the draw, this Sunday could be spell out a dream final for badminton aficionados when both chief national coach Pullela Gopichand's star proteges face each other.

Defending men's champion Parupalli Kashyap has been seeded No.1. The World No.20 will face former national champion Anup Sridhar in the first round and if all goes according to seedings, Kashyap will be up against Mumbai's second seed Ajay Jayaram in the final.

 (Agencies)

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