Reigning world champion PV Sindhu will begin title defence on Tuesday when she takes on Martina Repiska in the second round of the BWF World Championships in Huelva.
It shapes up to be a crucial day for Indians at the marquee event as Lakshya Sen and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Chirag Shetty also kick off their campaigns amid hopes of making a deep run in the event. Former World No 1 Srikanth Kidambi also returns for his second round match.
Sindhu, seeded sixth at the event but effectively the fourth highest, had a first round bye as did all the top 16 seeds. She faces Repiska, world No 72 from Slovakia, who also didn’t play in the first round after the withdrawal of Indonesia’s Ruselli Hartawan. This will be their first meeting on the tour. The match will be on Court 3 and hence won’t be telecast.
In men’s singles, both Lakshya and Srikanth must start to feel that their recent form can come in handy in a draw that has been thrown wide open by withdrawals and first-round upsets. With no Kento Momota and Viktor Axelsen, there are no clear-cut favourites anymore. But Sen and Srikanth both face tricky tests on Tuesday.
Sen, who had a walkover in round one, takes on 15th seed Kenta Nishimoto. Srikanth will face Li Shi Feng and must be wary of the fact that a couple of big upsets in the tournament have been caused by the fresh Chinese shuttlers who have not played on the tour much. Fatigue for the rest of the field and fresh legs for them has made for an interesting combination. Li had good outings in the Thomas Cup recently defeating the likes of Kunlavut Vitidsarn and Kanta Tsuneyama and running Jonatan Christie close in the final.
Satwik and Chirag, seeded eighth, also kickstart their campaign in men’s doubles. They take on world No 31 Lee Jhe-Huei and Yang Po-Hsuan from Chinese Taipei. The Indians had to withdraw from the World Tour Finals in Bali recently because of a persistent knee issue for Satwik, so it will be interesting to see if he has recovered in time as the draw is rather tricky for the Indians despite the withdrawals of the top two seeds (both pairs not in their quarter).
Saurabh Sharma and Anoushka Parikh face a tough test against ninth seeds from Malaysia in the mixed doubles.