Seasoned Indian shuttlers Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth will resume their Olympic qualification quest when they compete at the $170,000 Barcelona Spain Masters starting in Barcelona on Tuesday.
The Indian duo has been inconsistent in 2019 and didn’t enjoy a good start to the new year.
While Saina has crossed the first round in only one of the three events in 2020, Srikanth has lost in the opening round in all three tournaments that he has played so far this year.
Saina and Srikanth are currently ranked 18th and 15th respectively while being placed 22nd and 26th in the ‘Race to Tokyo’ rankings, which takes into consideration only the points accumulated from the tournaments played since the qualification period started in May 2019.
According to the BWF Olympic qualification rules, only two players from each singles category can qualify if their ranking is within the top-16 by April end.
Among the Indians, world champion PV Sindhu and B Sai Praneeth and men’s doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty have almost secured their berths for the Tokyo Games.
With the Olympic qualification cut-off date ending in April, there are only seven tournaments, including the Barcelona Spain Masters, left in the calendar and the Indian duo will have to produce consistent performances to earn a ticket to Tokyo.
London bronze medallist Saina, who is looking to make her fourth Olympics, will begin her campaign in Barcelona against Germany’s Yvonne Li.
The former world No 1 is likely to face third-seeded Thai Busanan Ongbamrungphan in the quarters, provided she wins her first two rounds.
Third seed Srikanth, on the other hand, will face fellow Indian Subhankar Dey, the 2018 SaarLorLux Open champion who notched up a morale-boosting win over world No 20 Indonesian Shesar Hiren Rhustavito in the Asia Team Championships on Saturday.
Srikanth, who was also a part of the team in Manila, won two of his singles matches and lost one last week and he would hope to go deep in the draw in the tournament.
His changes of doing just that received a major boost when he was the only seed left in the lower half of the draw following a spate of withdrawals. Second seed Sai Praneeth, who pulled a hamstring during the Asian Badminton Team Championship, national champion Sourabh Verma have withdrawn along with the Chinese contingent.
Among the other Indians in the fray, world No 25 Parupalli Kashyap will meet Brazil’s Ygor Coelho, while HS Prannoy will face veteran Malaysian Daren Liew in the opening round.
In doubles, the women’s pairing of Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy have got a walkover in the opening round and will face third seeds Stefani and Gabriela Stoeva in the second round. In men’s doubles, Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Krishna Prasad Garaga will cross swords with England’s Ben Lane and Sean Vendy.
The mixed doubles pair of Pranaav and Sikki will lock horns with Mathias Christiansen and Alexandra Boje.
Clarification: The report has been updated after late withdrawals were announced in the main draw