World No 10 Saina Nehwal was handed a tricky draw for the second straight tournament on the European circuit, while it’s a case of deja vu for her compatriot PV Sindhu at the French Open starting on Tuesday.
Nehwal, who fought hard but could not avoid a 11th straight defeat at the hands of world No 1 Tai Tzu Ying in the final of the Denmark Open on Sunday, has been drawn in the same quarter as the Taiwanese in Paris.
However, to reach the quarter-finals, Nehwal must first get past her near namesake Saena Kawakami, ranked 37th in the world, and if she manages to do that, the Indian could meet former world champion Nozomi Okuhara in the second round. Saina and Nozomi had played out a thrilling three-game match in Odense last week.
In the bottom half of the women’s singles draw, PV Sindhu will meet USA’s Beiwen Zhang in the first round for the second straight tournament. The American shuttler had pulled an upset over the world No 3 in Odense and Sindhu will be looking to avoid an encore.
If Sindhu does get past Zhang, she could meet seventh seed He Bingjiao in the quarter-finals. The good news for Sindhu is that world champion Carolina Marin has pulled out of the tournament, which means world No 2 Akane Yamaguchi is the only other real challenger on paper in her half.
Over in the men’s singles, Kidambi Srikanth starts his campaign in Paris against Hong Kong’s Wong Wing Ki Vincent, who had beaten him at the Asian Games earlier this year. If Srikanth wins his opener, he could meet South Korea’s Lee Dong Keun, another shuttler who had got the better of the Indian – just last month at the Japan Open.
If Srikanth reaches the quarter-finals, he could be up against world champion Kento Momota, who has beaten him four times already this year, including in last week’s Denmark Open.
While HS Prannoy is not playing this tournament because of health issues, Sai Praneeth and Sameer Verma are on collision course in the second round. However, they will first have to get past Brazil’s Ygor Coelho and Asian Games gold medallist Jonatan Christie respectively in their opening rounds. Sai Praneeth was first pitted against former world champion Viktor Axelsen but the Dane pulled out.
In men’s doubles, Chirag Shetty is back on the circuit after missing the Denmark Open because he was writing his B Com exams. He will partner with Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and India’s top men’s doubles pair could take on fifth seeds Kim Astrup and Anders Rasmussen in the second round itself.
Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy also have a difficult draw as they could face former world champions Liu Cheng and Zhang Nan in the second round. Fresh from winning the Hellas Open on Sunday, Arjun MR and Shlok Ramchandran have been thrown in the deep end in Paris, drawn to meet Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen in the first round itself.
In women’s doubles, India’s only representatives Meghna J and Poorvisha S Ram will play Belgium’s Lise Jaques and Flore Vandenhoucke in the first round. In the second round, the Indians could meet fourth seeds Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu.
Ashwini Ponnappa and Sikki Reddy, who impressed at the Denmark Open last week, are not playing together in France as Sikki has pulled out, choosing to train for two weeks ahead of the China Open, Hong Kong Open and Syed Modi Championships next month.
Ashwini is playing in Paris, though, and will partner Satwik in the mixed doubles, where the duo have a difficult draw, taking on Chris and Gabby Adcock in the first round. If the Indians win that, they could be up against top seeds Zheng Siwei and Huang Siwei.
Corrections and clarifications: An earlier version of this article stated that Meghna J and Poorvisha Ram have a bye in the first round as their original opponents have pulled out. The article has been updated to reflect that they don’t have a bye and will face a pair promoted from reserves. The article has also been updated to reflect that Viktor Axelsen has pulled out.