Saina, Sindhu start favourites at India Open

New Delhi : In-form Saina Nehwal and defending champion P V Sindhu will be the cynosure of all eyes when they start their campaign at the USD 350,000 India Open, starting on Tuesday.

The marquee event will also feature 2014 champion Kidambi Srikanth beginning his new season after missing last week’s Indonesia Masters.

 Saina, who had clinched the India Open Super Series in 2015, has made a superb start to the new season as she reached the finals of Indonesia Masters after recovering from an ankle injury and she would be one of the favourites this week.

This was the first major final appearance for Saina since her injury-induced ouster from the Rio Olympics. In 2017, the Indian found it difficult to consistently cross the second round, mainly due to her poor fitness level.

However, now that she has displayed her new-found fitness at the Indonesia Masters, she will hope to keep that intensity going when she plays at the second successive tournament at Siri Fort Sports Complex here.

Placed in the bottom half, fourth seed Nehwal will face Denmark’s Sofie Dahl in the opening round and fifth seed Beiwen Zhang will be her likely opponent in the quarterfinals.

Sindhu, on the other hand, has been simply sensational ever since her Olympic silver medal as she clinched three titles and three silvers last season and rightly received top billing for the tournament here.

The World Championship silver medallist will begin her campaign against Denmark’s Natalia Rohde and barring any surprises her real challenge will come in the form of former world champion Ratchanok Intanon in the semi-finals.

Interestingly, Sindhu’s campaign at Jakarta was cut short by compatriot Saina in the quarter-finals and there is a realistic possibility that the celebrated duo can again meet in an all-Indian final if they can live up to their reputation.

In men’s singles, Srikanth exceeded all expectations with four titles and a runner-up finish last season but a leg injury during the Senior National Badminton Championships in Nagpur affected his game as he had to sit out of the China Open and Hong Open last year.

When he returned at the Dubai Super Series Final, lack of match practice affected his performance as he lost all his three matches in the group stage.

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