For the first time since November 2016, PV Sindhu is not a top-10 women’s singles player. It’s an incredible achievement to have been in the world’s top 10 for as long as she has, reaching as high as No 2 for 11 weeks. But this week, she is No 11 in the world. Sindhu’s 2022 had started with a semifinal run at India Open, a title at Syed Modi International, and another title at the Swiss Open. While those points have not been defended, now perhaps is the chance to start afresh once again without that baggage.
In Madrid, she is in the bottom half of a draw that is not exactly loaded with the top-tier talent. Sure some tricky tests await but, if Sindhu is anywhere in the vicinity of her best, she has a solid chance at making it deep and even all the way to the final. And there, we could, if all goes per seeding, have a blockbuster title clash with Carolina Marin as the top seed in her home event.
Both Sindhu and freshly-crowned Swiss Open doubles champions Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty are second seeds in their respective categories at the Spain Masters Super 300 that began on Tuesday with qualification and a few main draw doubles matches.
The 27-year-old, who crossed the first round for the first time this season last week in Basel, suffered a three-game defeat against Putri Kusuma Wardani of Indonesia at one of her favourite venues on tour. She will begin her campaign in Madrid against Jenjira Stadelmann of Switzerland, the same opponent she beat in Basel last week in the opening round. Should she win that, yet another match against Wardani could be in the offing. It’s like Basel is presenting itself again to her in Madrid. Ashmita Chaliha, Mavlika Bansod, Aakarshi Kashyap are also in the main draw of women’s singles.
After a semifinal run at the Malaysia Open that should have filled them with confidence, things hadn’t gone exactly per plan for Satwik-Chirag. Their India Open title defence was cut short with what was then seen as a precautionary move to pull out, with Satwik’s injury. But it kept him off court for a while and he said after the Swiss Open he was quite emotional because of the time he spent away.
He added to PTI that the injury was frustrating, but the duo hit the ground running in the European leg. A second-round defeat at All England was not ideal, but the match they lost was against one of the best pairs out there, and the Indians showed they were back on track. And that track led to them the title in Basel, where they became the first Indian doubles winners of the Swiss Open.
The plan would now be to stay on that track and get into a winning habit as they begin another week as one of the favourites for the event. The world No 6 pair begin their campaign against Japan’s Ayato Endo and Yuta Takei this week.
On Tuesday, MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila got off to a winning start in the event. In fact, it was the pair’s first win of 2023 as Arjun stepped up his return from injury. The duo won 16-21 21-17 21-12 against the Grimley brothers from Scotland. There was however a three-game defeat for Vishnuvardhan Goud and Krishna Prasad in the round out of 32.
Struggling men’s singles
Lakshya Sen and HS Prannoy are not competing in Madrid so that means the onus is on former world No 1 Srikanth, seeded fifth in the event. He too has struggled for consistency on tour this season but with the Olympic qualification cycle not far away, would be hoping to turn things around. He starts off with a tricky test against Thailand’s Sitthikom Thammasin.
Recently crowned national champion Mithun Manjunath is pitted against compatriot Kiran George, after the withdrawal of Ng Tze Yong. Sameer Verma and B Sai Praneeth too are in the main drawn, they will open their campaigns against Nhat Nguyen and Jan Louda.
Priyanshu Rajawat also adds to the Indian presence in the main draw, after coming through qualification on Tuesday with two solid wins. Five of the six Indians are, however, in the top half of the 32-strong draw. The top two seeds are Kenta Nishimoto and Kanta Tsuneyama from Japan.
The other seeded entry from India is in the women’s doubles draw where Gayatri Gopichand and Treesa Jolly are billed sixth. But keeping with the trend of receiving tricky opponents early on, they face Swiss Open champions from last week Rena Miyaura and Ayako Sakuramoto of Japan right off the bat. N Sikki Reddy, who lost out in the mixed doubles with Rohan Kapoor on Tuesday, is through to the round of 16 with Arathi Sara Sunil while Simran Singhi and Ritika Thakker lost.