Indonesia SSP: PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, B Sai Praneeth aim to breach home dominion in quest for glory

The 2017 BCA Indonesia Super Series Premier is set to take the center stage as a host of world-class shuttlers will battle it out in one of the most crucial and noisy tournaments of the Badminton World Federation (BWF) calendar. Although, the vibrant Istora Senayan won't host the $1,000,000 event, the Jakarta Convention Center is expected to have the same atmosphere throughout the week.

The Indonesia Open is one of the six Superseries Premier tournaments and the third of 2017 with Denmark, China and Dubai Finals lined up later this year. Interestingly, the host nation has dominated the tournament – with 81 medals – 38 more than the second-placed Chinese.

India's hopes at Indonesia SSP will rest on PV Sindhu (R), Saina Nehwal (L) and B Sai Praneeth (C). AFP

India's hopes at Indonesia SSP will rest on PV Sindhu (R), Saina Nehwal (L) and B Sai Praneeth (C). AFP

India have managed to take the Indonesia Open title home on three occasions – 2009, 2010 and 2012 – with Saina Nehwal being the only Indian to have won the tournament. The 27-year-old shuttler is on a comeback trail but faces a stiff challenge in the first round against former World No 1 Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand. It will be an encounter between two former winners, however, Saina holds the edge with a 7-5 lead in the overall head-to-head meetings. The Hyderabad-based shuttler got the better of her Thai counterpart when they last met at the Australian Open in 2016. Saina would be eager to put aside her injury woes and should challenge for the title again after clinching the Malaysia Masters earlier in the year.

PV Sindhu, on the other hand, takes on Thailand's Pornpawee Chochuwong in what looks like an easy game for the Hyderabad-born shuttler. This will be their first ever meeting in a BWF tournament as the fourth-seed Sindhu has her sights set on the title. That being said, if things go well for the Olympic medallist, she may face Carolina Marin in the semi-final. The Spaniard, who lost in the final of India Open Superseries to Sindhu earlier this year and was defeated twice by Tai Tzu Ying in the final of Malaysia and Singapore tournaments, has an easy draw against China's Chen Xiaoxin. This might just be Marin's golden chance to claim a silverware since winning the gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics. Elsewhere, World No 1 Tai Tzu faces Japan's Minatsu Mitani in the first round.

Men's singles in India have seen an upturn in fortunes in recent times with three shuttlers - Ajay Jayaram, Kidambi Srikanth, and B Sai Praneeth - ranked in the top 15. Although Jayaram misses out on the tournament citing injury, India's hope rest on Srikanth, Praneeth and World No 29 HS Prannoy. Praneeth's recent Singapore Open and Thailand Grand Prix Gold triumphs have shown that the World No 10 has come a long way after being victimised by inconsistency last year. The 24-year-old shuttler faces a stern test against second seed Son Wan Ho of Korea in the first hurdle.

Fit-again Srikanth will be hoping to make his mark in the tournament after missing out on the Singapore Open. The former World No 4 has not been at his best but is arguably India's best bet in the men's department. Srikanth will take on Wong Wing Ki Vincent of Hong Kong in the first round. The duo last met at the 2016 Korea Open where the Hong Kong shuttler, who leads 2-1 in the head-to-head meetings, won the tie in three games.

Coming back after a three-month gap, Prannoy is ready to deliver the goods in Jakarta after taking time out for fitness and training. "I wasn't fit enough for Malaysia and Singapore Open. So, was focusing on getting the endurance back and that is my main aim," Prannoy, who will take the court against Indonesia's Anthony Ginting, told Firstpost. The 24-year-old has been focusing on long sessions following his first round exit in the India Open and expects a tough challenge in Jakarta. "The conditions would be tough. Playing against an Indonesian in Indonesia is not easy. I will give my best as I feel great physically," he added.

Third seed Lee Chong Wei hopes to claim the men's title for a record seventh time before retiring as he is the only non-Indonesian shuttler to have won it six times. Only Taufik Hidayat and Ardi Wiranata have won the title six times on home soil. The Malaysian ace will lock horns with Tommy Sugiarto in the first round and can set up potential clashes with Chen Long in the quarter-final and Viktor Axelsen in the semi-final. The second seed Axelsen faces a qualifier, while China's Lin Dan takes on unseeded Tzu Wei Wang.

Elsewhere in the doubles department, Sikki Reddy and Ashwini Ponnappa are confident about their partnership in the women's doubles. "Ashwini is good with attack and she covers the backcourt very well. So, my job is to create an opening for her. So, it’s almost similar to me whether it’s women’s or mixed doubles," said Sikki, who won't participate in the mixed doubles as her partner Pranaav Jerry Chopra withdrew himself due to injury.

Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy won't feature as the former had sustained an injury during the Sudirman Cup in May. Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty will face Altof Barriq and Reinard Dhanriano in the qualifier on Monday.

In the mixed doubles, Sumeeth and Ponnappa will face a qualifier in the first round as the duo hope to perform well. "The preparations have been really good. Had a tough three-week training program before coming to Jakarta. I feel we have a good draw, so hoping to give my best and grab the opportunity," said Sumeeth.

Top seed Kevin Sanjaya and Marcus Gideon are in red-hot form and will be the favourites to clinch the title in front of the home crowd.

Looking at such a competitive contingent, there is a possibility that we might witness another title to India's basket. All eyes will be on Saina, Sindhu and Praneeth after their convincing performances in recent tournaments.

Updated Date: Jun 12, 2017 12:24 PM

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