The first Superseries Premier tournament post the Rio Olympics – the Denmark Open – presents a tough challenge for Indian shuttlers. The event that begins in Odense today also marks the return of the 2016 Olympic silver medallist PV Sindhu to the circuit.
But even the 21-year-old, who reached the Denmark Open final last year, has not been spared from facing a difficult draw. The Indian, who is seeded sixth, starts her campaign against an opponent as gritty as the 11th ranked He Bingjao. The Chinese boasts of having a 3-1 record against the eighth-ranked Indian and has also won their last meeting at the Singapore Open in April this year. Interestingly, this will be the fourth showdown between the two this year and the Chinese leads 2-1 in those.
After a potential quarter-final meeting with World No. 14 Busanan Ongbamrungphan against whom she is 8-0, Sindhu can come up against the fourth seed Ji Hyun Sung or the fifth seed Tai Tzu Ying in the semi-finals. Both are ranked higher than the Indian at the moment and Sindhu has won against both of them the last time she met them.
Having said that, both being quality players can rise to the occasion any day. Sindhu’s most recent match with the sixth-ranked Tai was at the Rio pre-quarter-finals where she triumphed in straight games.
The final can see a repeat of the thrilling Olympic final if Sindhu manages to overcome all the dangers and make it to the summit clash. World No. 1 and Olympic champion Carolina Marin too is making her comeback at this tournament and will be looking to avenge the semi-final loss she faced at the hands of Sindhu at this very event last year.
Jayaram leads four Indians in men’s singles
The main draw of men’s singles will see three Indians participating. World No. 20 Ajay Jayaram will be leading the Indian challenge in the absence of Kidambi Srikanth who is recuperating from an ankle injury sustained at the Japan Open. Jayaram has to bounce back quickly from his final defeat at the Dutch Open a couple of days back and be ready for the 30th ranked Boonsak Ponsana in the first round. The Indian has a 2-1 head-to-head record over the Thai and is expected to win this.
His path becomes far tougher from thereon as he faces the third seed Jan O Jorgensen in the very next round.
32nd ranked HS Prannoy’s hopes for an easier draw too have been dashed. After kicking off his campaign against a qualifier, he will have to take on the World No. 1 and top seed Lee Chong Wei in Round 2.
The third Indian in the main draw – B Sai Praneeth – too does not have it easy. His first opponent is the World No. 18 Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk, who beat him in their only career meeting so far at the Indonesian Masters this year. If the Indian succeeds in exacting revenge, he will be crossing swords with the fourth seed Tian Houwei of China in the next round.
Commonwealth Games gold medallist Parupalli Kashyap is the only one playing in the qualifying rounds on Tuesday. As luck would have it, the 30-year-old faces the very same opponent who ended his run at the Dutch Open last week.
World No. 47 Raul Must beat Kashyap in straight games in that tournament and the Indian needs to be on the alert right from the beginning to get a win this time.
Chopra and Reddy face European champions in mixed doubles
Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy is the only Indian pair in men’s doubles and they take on the Danish team of Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen in the first round. Only one ranking place separates the two teams and the match is expected to be a hard-fought one.
Back-to-back triumphs at the Brazil Grand Prix and the Russian Open Grand Prix have seen the Indian mixed doubles duo of Pranaav Jerry Chopra and N Sikki Reddy rise to No. 38 in the world rankings, making them the only Indian team currently in the top 50. Their 11-match winning streak came to an end in the semi-finals of the Dutch Open on Saturday and they will be looking to rebound from that defeat at the Denmark Open.
It is easier said than done as this being a Superseries Premier tournament, the level of competition is extremely high right from Round 1. The Indians have the fifth seeds and European champions Joachim Fischer Nielsen and Christinna Pedersen of Denmark in the first round.
It goes without saying that Chopra and Reddy will have to be at their immaculate best to have any chance of a win.