Singapore Superseries: PV Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth to spearhead Indian challenge in Saina Nehwal's absence
Sindhu has her task cut out in her first round clash with former All England winner Nozomi Okuhara of Japan. Nozomi and Sindhu have met five times in competitive fixtures and the Japanese holds the edge.
Not too long ago, top seed Saina Nehwal won India's maiden OUE Singapore title and her second Superseries silverware after getting the better of unseeded Tai Tzu Ying, on her 16th birthday at the Singapore Indoor Stadium. Well, it has been seven years and a lot has changed since then. Saina pulled out of the $350,000 event to spend more time in training whereas Tai Tzu, World No 1 women's singles shuttler will be eyeing her third straight Superseries title in Singapore. But that does not put an end to India's hopes of clinching its second title in a tournament that is yet again dominated by the Chinese (50 titles).
However, on 12 April, all eyes will be on the Yonex-Sunrise India Open winner and fifth seed PV Sindhu who suffered a first-round exit at the Celcom Axiata Malaysia Open just a few days ago. The 21-year-old shuttler has her task cut out in her first round clash with former All England winner Nozomi Okuhara of Japan. Nozomi and Sindhu have met five times in competitive fixtures and the Japanese holds the edge with three wins, but their most recent clash takes us to the semi-final of 2016 Rio Olympics which saw Sindhu defeat Nozomi in straight games. Sindhu, by now, has got enough rest after her early exit in Malaysia and should only look to regain her form in Saina's absence.
"Yes, I withdrew from the tournament as I feel I need(ed) some more time training to get better. There is improvement in my knee but I think some more training will help at this point," the 27-year-old Saina told PTI.
Another 21-year-old Indian will be in action in Singapore in the form of Rituparna Das, who will take on Chinese Taipei's Hsu Ya Ching for the first time. Top seed and Malaysia Open winner, Tai Tzu squares off against defending champion Ratchanok Intanon in the first round whereas Carolina Marin is slated to face Pornpawee Chochuwong.
Meanwhile, the men's singles department will be without the top four shuttlers as Malaysia Open winner Lin Dan, World No 1 Lee Chong Wei, Chen Long and Jan O Jorgensen have all withdrawn themselves from the tournament citing various reasons. However, this makes way for Indian shuttlers to pounce on the opportunity and hopefully go the distance.
After getting a much-needed rest, India Open quarter-finalist Sameer Verma face Hong Kong's Hu Yun, whom he defeated in the first round in Delhi. His elder brother Sourabh will lock horns with Indonesia's Anthony Sinisuka. B Sai Praneeth will meet Denmark's Emil Holst while Ajay Jayaram will face fifth seed Shi Yuqi in the opening round. Jayaram sprung a surprise by beating World No 2 Viktor Axelsen en route to the Malaysia Open quarter-finals earlier this month.
Former World No 3 Kidambi Srikanth will be eager to make his mark in Singapore after a not-so-satisfying All England and India Open as he has an easy tie against 74-ranked Kenta Nishimoto of Japan. Kidambi skipped the Malaysia Open in order to stay in shape ahead of a busy international schedule.
Men's doubles duo Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy will have their sights on shrugging off their disastrous form since their Olympic qualification and will face Japanese third-seeded pair of Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda in the opening round.
In the women's doubles section Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold finalists, Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy will meet the Malaysian pair of Yin Loo Lim and Yap Cheng Wen. Sanjana Santosh and Arathi Sara, on the other hand, have an uphill task in the very first round as they face top seed Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi of Japan. Apart from them, Jakkampudi Meghana and Poorvisha S will be in action in the women's doubles.
In the mixed doubles event, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Maneesha K will play the Chinese Taipei pair of Lu Ching Yao and Chiang Kai Hsin whereas Sumeeth and Ponnappa face off against Venkat Gaurav Prasad and Juhi Dewangan in an all-Indian clash in the first round.
This will be the fourth straight Superseries event after the All England, India and Malaysia Open. Saina's decision to skip the event is understandable and Sindhu will be motivated to brush aside her unlucky defeat and continue her dominance in Singapore. As far as Kidambi is concerned, like Sindhu, he too will look to hit the ground running after a much-needed break.
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