Two-time Olympic medallist PV Sindhu will look to recover from her unexpected semifinal loss at the India Open and end her title drought at the Syed Modi International (Super 300), which begins in Lucknow on Tuesday.
In a field that has been depleted due to a spate of late withdrawals, Sindhu and HS Prannoy are the standout stars to watch out for from an Indian point of view. Srikanth Kidambi, Lakshya Sen, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty are among those who withdrew late.
Sindhu, of course, is the top seed in women’s singles. The 26-year-old from Hyderabad was well on course to win her first title since the 2019 World Championship triumph last week before left-hander Supanida Katethong of Thailand shattered her hopes with a three-game win at the India Open.
Sindhu, who had finished runner-up at Swiss Open and World Tour Finals last year, will hope to turn things around this week when she begins her campaign against compatriot Tanya Hemanth.
The Indian will be itching to settle scores against sixth seed Supanida, whom she is likely to face again at the quarterfinals at the Babu Banarasi Das Indoor Stadium.
Korean coach Park Tae Sang had said in an interaction with fans and media last week that it was important for Sindhu to win a title at home despite the lack of any real off season, and perhaps the early defeat in Delhi has meant she couldn’t afford to skip this week’s event. Coach Park had stressed on the importance of gaining important BWF World Tour points at home as it would help her later in the season. The field has also considerably thinned out, making Sindhu the heavy favourite should she remain fit to play till the end of the week.
Also because of the withdrawals, including that of fourth seed Saina Nehwal and second seed Michelle Li among others, there are only three seeded players left in the women’s singles draw and all of them are in the top half. Russia’s fifth seed Evgeniya Kosetskaya is a possible semifinalist for Sindhu, should she reach that far.
The bottom half is teeming with Indian hopefuls and because a redraw is not part of BWF’s procedures, it opens the door for the likes of Ashmita Chaliha, Malvika Bansod or Aakarshi Kashyap to go the distance and earn important ranking points in the Super 300 event. Chaliha and Bansod face each other in the opening round, unfortunately.
Lakshya Sen, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty have decided to give the Super 300 tournament a miss after claiming their respective India Open Super 500 crowns. World Championships silver medallist and top seed Kidambi Srikanth is also not competing this week as he is undergoing seven-day mandatory quarantine after withdrawing from the main draw last week following a positive Covid-19 result.
Third seed B Sai Praneeth, who had pulled out of India Open after testing positive, is also absent, while Ashwini Ponnappa and Manu Attri are yet to recover from the virus and will miss the tournament, reported PTI. Ashwini was part of the top seeded women’s doubles pairing, while Manu and B Sumeeth Reddy are seeded third in the men’s doubles event.
On a comeback trail, former top-10 player Prannoy gave a good account of himself before being stopped by 20-year-old Sen in the quarterfinals last week and he will be a firm favourite to go the distance. Fifth seed Prannoy will hope to go deep in the draw when he opens his campaign against Ukraine’s Danylo Bosniuk.
There are a host of other Indians in men’s singles, such as seventh seed Sourabh Verma, fourth seed Sameer Verma – who he is still recovering from a calf muscle injury – Subhankar Dey and youngsters like Kiran George, Mithun Manjunath and Priyanshu Rajawat.
Aakarshi Kashyap, who had reached the quarterfinals last week, will look to continue her good run when she faces fellow Indian Mugdha Agrey in opening round while Samiya Imad Farooqui, Ira Sharma and Sri Krishna Priya Kudaravalli will be the other prominent Indians in action.
In men’s doubles, Krishna Prasad Garaga and Vishnuvardhan Panjala will look to make up for the disappointment of losing in the opening round last week in Delhi. MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapil will fancy their as chances as well in the men’s doubles draw where Russian veterans Vladmir Ivanov and Ivan Sozonov will start as favourites.
Sen cites exhaustion
Lakshya Sen on Monday pulled out of the Syed Modi International Super 300 tournament after feeling “exhausted” following his participation in back-to-back tournaments since October last year.
“Since completing the India Open 2022 tournament in Delhi last night, I am feeling very exhausted and suffering from tiredness. In these circumstances, I am afraid I will not be able to do justice to my participation in the event,” Sen said in his letter to the organisers.
“Therefore, after consulting my coaches, my physios and family, I have decided it would be best for me to withdraw from the Syed Modi International 2022 tournament so that I can take some much needed rest and recuperate, before I start training in earnest for the upcoming events from March onwards,” he added.
The youngster has competed in nine tournaments since October last year. He entered the finals of the Dutch Open, reached the semifinals at Hylo and entered the knockout stage at World Tour Finals on debut before sizzling at the World Championships with a bronze last year.
“My sincere apologies for the short notice to withdraw from the event. I trust you will understand my position and appreciate your support in this matter. I hope the tournament goes off smoothly, and I wish all participants, especially my fellow participants from India, all the very best in the event,” Sen added.
A hectic season awaits Indian shuttlers with big-ticket events such as Commonwealth Games, Asian Games lined-up this year apart from the regular BWF World Tour events, including the World Championships and All England Championships
Lakshya, who had emulated his mentor Prakash Padukone by winning the World championship bronze in Huelva, Spain last month, will now look to claim the All England Championships in March.
Among other Indians, top seed Kidambi Srikanth, top women’s doubles player Ashwini Ponnappa and men’s doubles player Manu Attri have confirmed to PTI their withdrawal from the tournament.
Srikanth, Ashwini and Attri were withdrawn from the India Open after testing positive for COVID-19 last week.
(With PTI inputs)
Schedule for day one matches is available here.