Saina, Xuerui in same group at Super Series Finals

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Kuala Lumpur, Dec 10 (IANS) Indian badminton star Saina Nehwal has been clubbed with Olympic champion Li Xuerui of China in the same group after the BWF Super Series Finals draws were announced at the Kuala Lumpur Badminton Stadium here Tuesday.

Japan’s Minatsu Mitani and Yeon Ju Bae of South Korea are the other players in Group B besides Saina, who is seeded second, and Xuerui.

China’s Shixian Wang, Thai Porntip Buranaprasertsuk, South Korean Ji Hyun Sung and Chinese Taipei’s Tzu Ying Tai are in Group A of the year-ending $500,000 showpiece event. The top two from each group will progress to the semi-finals.

Though Saina has not won a single tournament this year, she has maintained the No.2 position in the Super Series rankings this season, enabling her to qualify for the Dec 11-15 tournament.

With three Super Series semi-final appearances in the 12-leg calendar, Saina, an Olympic bronze medallist qualified quite early for the tourney where she finished runners up two years ago in 2011.

The Hyderabad girl’s first tie is against World No.7 Yeon, against whom the Indian has a 5-4 win-loss record. But Saina has lost both her 2013 clashes to the Korean.

Next up will be World No.1 and defending champion Xuerui against whom Saina has a 2-5 record. The 23-year-old Saina will have a tough outing against the Chinese in their first match of 2013. Their last meeting was in the 2012 edition of the Finals.

Saina’s third and final group clash will be relatively easier as she will face World No.13 Minatsu against whom she has a 3-1 record and they too will be meeting for the first time this year.

Saina, who is also a two-time semi-finalist here, does have a good chance if she finds her footing and form at the event which pits the eight best players of the current year.

Chinese Taipei’s Tai, who won the Malaysia Open, is lucky to enter the event because tournament regulations stipulate a maximum of two players per country, automatically ruling out No.8 Yihan Wang with compatriots Shixian and Xuerui ahead of her.

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