India Open | PV Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth India's biggest hopes in star-less tournament

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India Open | PV Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth India's biggest hopes in star-less tournament

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Subhayan Dutta

03/25/2019

With Saina Nehwal pulling out of the India Open, India’s title chances have highly narrowed down to two shuttlers - PV Sindhu and Kidmabi Srinkanth. Leaving aside the potential that the duo pack, their draws also make them increasingly favourable to reach the semis before any real challenge sets in.

As it is that the non-participation of Japanese had made the job way easier for the Indian shuttlers in the India Open, Sindhu further thanked her stars after All England champion Chen Yufei also pulled out of the tournament citing to medical reasons. After finishing 2018 on a high, as she claimed the World Tour Finals, Sindhu was expected to start this seasons with all guns blazing. However, while the 23-year-old could only reach the quarterfinal at the Indonesia Masters, she had to face a surprise first-round exit in the All England Championship.

If getting back the momentum is what Sindhu is looking for, there cannot be a greater opportunity than the India Open. In the absence of her nemeseis Akane Yamaguchi, Nozomi Okuhara, Tai Tzu Ying, and an injured Carolina Marin, all of whom are above her in the ranking, the best Sindhu has to face is He Bingjiao.

To further make things easier, Sindhu wouldn’t face the Chinese until the semi-final. Placed opposite compatriot Mugdha Agrey, the toughest that Sindhu would be facing is emerging Danish star Mia Blichfeldt in the quarters. With hardly any shuttler to compete in the women’s singles category, this would be the perfect chance for the World No. 6 to get back on track before she goes into Malaysia Open, where every one of the missing above would be waiting.

While this is expected to be an easy run for Sindhu, Srikanth could also see this as his last good chance to regain prominence. After winning four Superseries Titles in 2017, the Indian shuttler has gone a whopping 17-month period without any title whatsoever. What started as repeated injuries and niggles has now turned into massive under confidence and nothing could be better therapy for the World No.7 than the India Open.

Though Srikanth has lost against many no-ones of late, Japan’s Kento Momota has been his biggest threats so far, with the Indian facing as many as eight straight defeats against him. And Momota's absence would be further aided by defending champion Shi Yuqi pulling out of the competition. The 26-year-old is now left with only Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen to compete against for the title.

The Guntur-born shuttler isn’t a rookie in the tournament after having already won it once back in 2015 and managing to reach the quarterfinal in 2018. While starting against old foe Wong Wing Ki Vincent could be a tricky task, to begin with, Srikanth has enjoyed a lot of success against Hong Kong player of late, winning four of their last clashes. He also enjoys a 9-3 head-to-head record against him. With him being the favourite in the opening game, Srikanth could come across compatriots Sameer Verma, or B Sai Praneeth with both of them also placed in the same half of the draw. 

Unlike the women’s singles, where Sindhu is pretty much India’s only hope of making to the semis, the men’s singles have quite a few competitors in the mix. Fifth-seeded Verma, who had reached the semis of the World Tour Finals last year, has a considerably easy draw against Denmark's Rasmus Gemke to start with.

While B Sai Praneeth is yet to know his opponent in the qualifier, HS Prannoy would be taking on the eighth-seeded Kantaphon Wangcharoen in his first game. Coming into the tournament following a gastro-oesophagal reflux disease last season, Prannoy is getting acquainted with the rigours of the game and wouldn’t be expected to be a bigger threat yet.

Unfortunately, Ajay Jayaram and Subhankar Dey have been dealt with a tougher draw as they take on Wang Tzu Wei and Tommy Sugiarto respectively. While fourth-seeded Sugiarto would definitely be a tough opponent, Subhankar has recently stunned Asian Games champion Jonatan Christie in the SaarLorLux Open and could pull out a surprise or two from his bag.

While the USD 350, 000 tournament would see many more Indians participating in the country's blue-riband tournament across all the five categories, hardly any of them are expected to be real contenders. With the men’s doubles duo of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty pulling out as Rankireddy still continue to struggle with his shoulder injury, sixth-seeded Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy, who wait for their opponents in the qualifier, could show a glimmer of hope for the country.

In women's doubles, the regular pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy could fancy their chances as the category is bereft of good competition, while Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Sikki should be the favourites in the mixed doubles category.

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