India’s in-form men’s singles players HS Prannoy and Lakshya Sen will eye good runs at the Japan Open Super 750 event in Osaka in the immediate aftermath of the gruelling World Championships campaign in Tokyo.
For starters, the two of them are in separate halves of the draw, unlike the World Championships and that must come as some relief.
PV Sindhu is among the big-name absentees as she continues to recover from the ankle fracture that she suffered at the Commonwealth Games. In her absence, Saina Nehwal is the only Indian in fray in women’s singles and she faces a monumental task in the opening round against home favourite Akane Yamaguchi, who defended her world championships title in Tokyo last week.
Nozomi Okuahara, who didn’t take part in the World Championships either, is another top shuttler who will be missing from the action in Osaka.
Viktor Axelsen, on the back of his dominant run to the title at the BWF World Championships, withdrew from the event in Osaka. For the man who has won all but one of the matches he has played on court this year, recovery took priority but what that means is the field being opened up for the rest of the main draw to have a good go at the high-ranking tournament.
Prannoy and Lakshya will fancy their chances in going deep. The 30-year-old Prannoy starts off against Ng Ka Long Angus of Hong Kong in the round of 32 while Lakshya faces Kenta Nishimoto of Japan, both tough tests but winnable fixtures. While Prannoy will then have to face the winner of a blockbuster opening tie between Loh Kean Yew and Zhao Jun Peng, Lakshya potentially meets 7th seed Jonatan Christie in the second round.
Srikanth Kidambi, who has been out of sorts since a superb run at the Thomas Cup, faces a huge task against Lee Zii Jia in the first round. Both men will be looking to bounce back from relatively early exits at the World championships.
In men’s doubles, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty had not entered their names originally for the event. Dhruv Kapila and MR Arjun will look to back up their great run at the World Championships and start off against Koreans Choi Sol Gyu and Kim Won Ho. Krishnaprasad Garaga and Vishnurvardhan Goud Panjala take on France’s Popov brothers.
Newly-crowned world champions Aaron Chia/Soh Wooi Yik are not in action this week and that opens the doors for many pairs in Osaka after a week of some big upsets in Tokyo in men’s doubles.
In women’s doubles, Ashwini Bhat and Shikha Gautam, Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand are in fray. The former had a good outing at Worlds, by pushing a top Korean pair to three games and they face another Korean pair in the opening round, taking Ha Na Baek and Lee Yu Lim. Jolly and Gopichand take on seventh seeds from Thailand Prajongjai and Kititharakul in what will be another huge test of their talent at the highest level.
In mixed doubles, the only Indian presence is Venkat Gaurav Prasad and Juhi Dewangan and they take on the top seeds and red-hot world champions Zheng/Huang.
Matches start on Tuesday, only HS Prannoy and Ashwini-Shikha are in action for India on the opening day. Order of play is here.