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Australian Open: Schedule, preview of India’s first round matches and draw analysis

FEATURED COLUMNIST
Preview
21 Jun 2017, 00:05 IST
Saina is the defending champion and is a two-time winner of this tournament

Competition: Crown Group Australian Open 2017

Venue: Sydney, Australia

Category: Superseries

Date: Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Round: First round

Time

Women’s singles

Saina Nehwal vs (4) Sung Ji Hyun at 11.15 am

(5) PV Sindhu vs Sayaka Sato at 11.25 am

Ruthvika Shivani Gadde vs Chen Xiaoxin at 12.10 pm

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Men’s singles

Ajay Jayaram vs (7) NG Ka Long Angus at 4.30 am

Kidambi Srikanth vs Kan Chao Yu at 4.40 am

Parupalli Kashyap vs (1) Son Wan Ho at 6.00 am

B Sai Praneeth vs Tommy Sugiarto at 6.00 am

Siril Verma vs Hans-Kristian Vittinghus at 6.55 am

HS Prannoy vs Rajiv Ouseph at 9.45 am

Men’s doubles

Francis Alwin/Tarun Kona vs Hendra Setiawan/Boon Heong Tan at 6.55 am

Manu Attri/B Sumeeth Reddy vs Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda at 9.45 am

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy/Chirag Shetty vs Law Cheuk Him/Lee Chun Hei Reginald at 2.15 pm

Women’s doubles

Ashwini Ponnappa/N Sikki Reddy vs Hsuan-Yu Wendy Chen/Jennifer Tam at 11.15 am

Mixed doubles

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy/Ashwini Ponnappa vs Lee Chun Hei Reginald/Chau Hoi Wah at 7.40 am

(All timings in Indian Standard Time)

Draw analysis

Men’s singles:

For the first time, there will be more attention on the Indian men and badminton fans will be eager to see if they can upstage their women counterparts once again just like they did at the Indonesian Open last week. With the arrival of the Indonesian coach Mulyo Handoyo, the Indian men are a force to reckon with now.

Six Indian men in the main draw validate how far we have come in the last few months.

The Indonesian Open champion Srikanth Kidambi has it easy in his opener as he kicks off his campaign against a qualifier. But it does get tough from thereon as he is once again slated to meet the World No. 1 Son Wan Ho. The Korean will be hunting for revenge after losing a narrow three-game semi-final to the Indian last week.

But first he has to face another Indian – Parupalli Kashyap, who has won a couple of comfortable matches to qualify for the main draw.

HS Prannoy, the other big star of last week, begins his challenge against the World No. 30 Rajiv Ouseph. The two are tied at 1-1 in their head-to-head meetings but it was the Indian who won their most recent showdown.

B Sai Praneeth, the other shuttler who has dazzled this season, has a danger in the form of Tommy Sugiarto in his first round. They have met twice and both times, it was the Indonesian who emerged victorious even though each time, it went the distance.

Having said that, it needs to be pointed out that Sai has come a long way since then and has more conviction in his abilities now. His Singapore Open win followed by the victory at the Thailand Open are good examples to demonstrate it.

Ajay Jayaram and Siril Verma, however, have experienced customers to handle in their opening rounds. While Ajay takes on the seventh-seeded NG Ka Long Angus, the young Verma has the veteran Danish shuttler Hans-Kristian Vittinghus. If they do manage to overcome their respective hurdles, they can meet each other in the next round.

Women’s singles:

There will be pressure on India’s two women superstars – Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu –and more so, on Saina. She is the defending champion and is a two-time winner of this tournament.

Sydney has been a happy hunting ground for the Indian shuttle queen. But whether she can overcome the inconsistencies plaguing her game remains the big question. It is never easy for any player to return to high-level competition after surgery and Saina’s comeback too has had its share of peaks and valleys.

She did win the Malaysia Masters to start her 2017 season on a high note but it had expectedly been a tough act to follow it up. In her last four tournaments, she has suffered opening round exits in two while crashing out in the second round last week in Indonesia.

And she doesn’t have a rosy path at Australia either. Now down at the 15th position, the former World No. 1 takes on the fourth seed Sung Ji Hyun, who beat her the last time they crossed swords at the All England Open in March.

But if anybody can inspire Saina to victory, then it is she, herself as time and again she has proved to be a fantastic fighter.

It is a slightly different situation for PV Sindhu, who has had a much better season. The India Open champion shockingly slumped to a second round defeat at Jakarta and here is her chance for redemption.

But she needs to be on the alert for her opponent – Sayaka Sato – is high on confidence after emerging as the surprise winner of last week’s Indonesia Open. And the Japanese also happens to have won the only encounter that she has had with Sindhu so far.

If Sindhu can surmount this barrier, she has a good chance of coming across her fellow Indian Ruthvika Shivani, who has the 33rd ranked Chinese in her opener.

Sindhu’s way to the title, however, will not be free of obstacles even after that. The top seed and World No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying lurks in the quarter-finals although it will be interesting to see how the Chinese Taipei ace responds after having her 27-match winning streak snapped last week.

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