Saina Nehwal was among the many high profile withdrawals in the women’s singles draw of the Syed Modi International Super 300 tournament that begins in Lucknow on Tuesday.
A total of five of the eight seeds including top seed He Bingjiao and second seed Michell Li have withdrawn from the women’s singles draw leaving the field open for fourth seed Carolina Marin and the up and coming An Se Young of Korea.
The men’s singles draw also saw second seed Ng Ka Long Angus and sixth seed Lu Guangzu pulling out along with Hong Kong Open champion Lee Cheuk Yiu.
With Nehwal, who also announced that she will not take part in the Premier Badminton League this season to recover from injuries and illness, pulling out and Sindhu not participating, all eyes would be on Indian men’s contingent with badminton fans keen to see how Lakshya Sen manages to perform on the home soil.
Sen, who won four of the five tournaments in Europe in the last two months, will take on France’s Thomas Rouxel of France in the opening round and could run into former world number one and seventh seed Son Wan Ho of Korea in the second round.
Focus will also be on the men’s doubles pairing of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, who won the Thailand Open Super 500 title and then reached the finals of French Open Super 750 this season.
Among the other Indians in fray, 2016 winner Kidambi Srikanth, defending champion Sameer Verma and world championship bronze-medallist B Sai Praneeth will look to make this week count to earn valuable ranking points in the race for Tokyo Olympics qualification.
Third seed Srikanth is looking to end his two-year long title drought and will kick off his campaign against Russia’s Vladimir Malkov.
Fourth seed Praneeth will meet Malaysia’s Iskandar Zulkarnain in the first round, while two-time champion Sameer Verma will hope to regain some form when he squares off against compatriot Ajay Jayaram in the opening round.
Sameer’s elder brother Sourabh, a winner at two Super 100 events in Hyderabad and Vietnam, will face last week’s India International Challenge winner Xiaodong Sheng of Canada in the opening round.
Former Commonwealth Games champion Parupalli Kashyap, who grabbed the title in 2012 and 2015, will lock horns with France’s Lucas Corvee, while HS Prannoy crosses swords with China’s Youth Olympic Games gold medallist Li Shi Feng.
In doubles, all hopes will be on the second seeded men’s pair of Satwiksairaj and Chirag as they open against Chinese combination of Di Zi Jian and Wang Chang.
In mixed doubles, Satwiksairaj and Ashwini Ponnappa will open against fellow Indians Dhruv Kapila and Meghana Jakkampudi, while Pranaav Jerry Chopra and N Sikki Reddy were handed an easy opener against Daksha Gautam and Kashish Sharma after fourth seeds Chinese pair of He Ji Ting and Du Yue withdrew.
In women’s doubles, eighth-seeded Ashwini and Sikki will begin against Hong Kong’s Ng Tsz Yau and Yuen Sin Ying.