Lucknow, Nov 20:
Saina Nehwal will start as a favourite when she spearheads the Indian challenge at the Syed Modi International tournament, starting on Tuesday in Lucknow.
The Super 300-level tournament has lost a bit of sheen with the pullout of Olympic silver medallist PV Sindhu, who has chosen to end her international season, with a spot in the BWF World Tour Finals next month confirmed.
Later in the day, Srikanth Kidambi announced his withdrawal as well, confirming that his season is now officially over.
India will have two defending champions in the tournament. Sameer Verma will be looking to retain the men’s singles title to enhance his chances of qualifying for the World Tour Finals. He is currently 12th in the Race to Guangzhou. The mixed doubles pair of Pranaav Jerry Chopra and N Sikki Reddy, too, will be looking to win back-to-back titles.
In Sindhu’s absence, Saina will be the cynosure of all eyes and the celebrated Indian has been in decent form this year, having won a gold at the Commonwealth Games and a bronze at the Asian Games. She also reached the finals of the Indonesia Masters in January and the Denmark Open in October. She begins her campaign against Mauritius’ Kate Foo Kune in the opening round.
With a host of Indians making up the draw, Saina is likely to face little resistance till her journey to the finals, where she is expected to meet former Olympic champion Li Xuerui, who has won the Canada Open, US Open and the China Masters after making a comeback following a two-year hiatus.
Prannoy will start against Thailand’s Adulrach Namkul and is likely to meet 2014 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist RMV Gurusaidutt in the third round. For that, Guru, who is trying to make a comeback after recovering from a career-threatening ankle injury, will have to fight his way against Germany’s Jonathan Persson and probably Misha Zilberman of Israel to enter the quarter-finals.
Fourth seed B Sai Praneeth, who had won the Singapore Open last year, will square off against Russia’s Sergey Sirant in the opening match, while Subhankar Dey, who claimed his maiden title at the SaarLorLux Open, will open against China’s Zhou Zeqi.
Seventh seed Sourabh Verma, who won titles at Russia and Dutch Open, will start against China’s Zhou Zeqi. Also in action would be India’s top two men’s doubles pairs of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, who were the silver medallists at the Commonwealth Games, and national champions Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy.
The women’s doubles pair of Ashwini and Sikki Reddy will also look to put their best foot forward as fourth seeds. Ashwini will also pair up with Satwik in mixed doubles.