All England Open 2018: Saina Nehwal faces World No. 1 in first round; easy draw for PV Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth
The badminton season may have started already but it is the month of March that every fan of the sport eagerly waits for. The All England Open Badminton Championships are held at the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham, England, in March, sending the excitement level to its peak.
The draw for this year's tournament was released, on Tuesday, and the Indians have been handed a difficult draw.
2015 runner-up Saina Nehwal will meet World No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying in the first round of the tournament. Saina has come up against the Taiwanese shuttler on 13 occasions previously and has managed to register only five wins. The last time the two faced off against each other was at the final of the Indonesia Masters earlier in January 2018 where the Indian suffered a 9-21, 13-21 loss.
If Saina manages to overcome Tai's challenge in the first round and progress further ahead, she will come up against Ratchanok Intanon in the semi-finals.
On the other hand, World No. 4 and India Open runners-up PV Sindhu, who is in the other half of the draw, has a relatively easier opening match as she will take on World No. 23 Pornpawee Chochuwong of Thailand in the first round. Interestingly, Sindhu on course to meet Beiwen Zhang, who had defeated the Rio Olympics silver medallist in the India Open final, earlier this year, in the second round.
In the quarters, she might face Nozomi Okuhara of Japan while a sterner test might await her in the semis in the form of Akane Yamaguchi or Carolina Marin.
In men's singles, World No. 3 Kidambi Srikanth, who crashed out in the quarterfinals of the India Open, has a seemingly easy draw as he will face France's Brice Leverdez in the first round.
Srikanth showed some good form at last week's Asian Team Championships, winning three out of his four matches, which helped him jump two places in the latest rankings. He will be looking to make it at least to the semi-finals.
Meanwhile, B Sai Praneeth will take on World No. 5 Son Wan Ho. HS Prannoy, who had openly criticised the BWF after he was forced to take part in the India Open despite a foot injury, has been drawn against World No. 8 Chou Tien Chen in the first round.
In men's doubles, the young Indian pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, who impressed at the Indonesian Masters, will be taking on Japanese pair Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi. The pair of B Sumeeth Reddy and Manu Attri have been drawn against World No. 26 Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge, who will be playing in front of their home crowd.
Poorvisha S Ram and Jakkampudi Meghana will face World No. 5 pair of Shiho Tanaka and Koharu Yonemoto while Ashwini Ponnappa and N. Sikki Reddy and World No. 2 pair of Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi in the first round of women's doubles.
In mixed doubles, Pranaav Jerry Chopra and N. Sikki Reddy will face Marvin Emil Seidel and Linda Efler.
This year's edition will see the added excitement as the new serving rule, which states "the whole of the shuttle should be below 1.15m from the surface of the court at the instant of being hit by the server's racket", will be tested for the first time. While the rule has been heavily criticised by some, it remains to be seen how exactly it will affect the performance of the shuttlers.