Seventh seed Saina Nehwal begins Badminton Asia Championships 2017 campaign against unseeded Japanese shuttler Sayaka Sato at the Wuhan Sports Center Gymnasium on Wednesday.
The 2016 bronze medallist skipped OUE Singapore Open earlier this month in order to get ready for the annual continental tournament. After recovering from a knee injury that hampered her post Rio Games season in 2016, the world number eight is yet to win a major title, but has been looking good on her comeback run.
On the other hand, Sato has been struggling to make her mark in the recent past and has not reached even a tournament final after her runner-up finish at last year's Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold tournament in India.
Saina opened her 2017 campaign in style with a title at Malaysia Masters and also reached the quarter-final of All England only to lose to higher-ranked Sung Ji Hyun of South Korea after which she faced another quarter-final exit at Malaysia Superseries Premier.
However, she has been moving better on court and the recent break should have given her enough time to get back to full fitness and thus the former world number one will be one of the shuttlers to watch out for.
Having beaten Sato six times in the past with her only loss against the 26-year-old coming at 2011 Korea Open, Saina is well placed to get past her opening round opponent, who has been struggling to get the better of top-10 opponents in the new season as she has lost to Carolina Marin (German Open), Ratchanok Intanon (All England Championships, Malaysia Open) and Tai Tzu Ying (Singapore).