Indian shuttler Srikanth Kidambi simply keeps on raising the bar. He showed glimpses of an improved defence and a more complete game during his title-winning campaign at the Denmark Open Superseries Premier last week.
But now it is a different challenge for him. The Pullela Gopichand protégé will be setting his sights on the 2017 Yonex French Open Superseries in Paris this week in a quest to win back-to-back Superseries titles in consecutive weeks for the second time in his career. He achieved that feat back in June when he triumphed in Indonesia and Australia, looking absolutely fearless and resolute.
Expectations of an encore are naturally high. And he could not have asked for an easier start after the World No. 23 Rajiv Ouseph withdrew just two days before the competition, leaving the eighth seed to face the 45th ranked German youngster, Fabian Roth.
The India No. 1 has a potential second round meeting with the 15th ranked Wong Wing Ki Vincent, the very player he beat in straight games in the Denmark Open semi-finals. In the quarter-finals, he is likely to cross swords with the fourth seed and defending champion Shi Yuqi, a player he has beaten twice in straight games.
The semi-finals is where he will like to settle a score with the second seed and World No. 2 Son Wan Ho. The Korean ended his 2017 World Championships medal hopes in the quarter-finals, having lost his last two meetings to the Indian.
Having been playing with such confidence now, Srikanth will surely be upbeat to avenge that defeat.
Sixth seeded Chen Long or seventh seeded Lee Chong Wei could be waiting for him in the final. Both of them suffered early exits in Odense and will look to make amends in the French capital this week.
Prannoy looks to avenge his Denmark Open defeat
Among the other Indians in men’s singles, the India No. 2 HS Prannoy will kickstart his campaign against the Denmark Open runner-up Lee Hyun Il. The 37-year-old might be weary after his massive efforts and could make it a comfortable outing for the World No. 14.
The Kerala-born shuttler then has a chance to exact revenge on his Denmark Open conqueror, Son Wan Ho and to successfully do it, he needs to play an error-free game.
Singapore Open Superseries winner B Sai Praneeth has the World No. 35 Khosit Phetpradab in his opener before a possible second round showdown with the three-time champion Lee Chong Wei.
Commonwealth Games champion Parupalli Kashyap has been promoted to the main draw from qualifying after a series of withdrawals. He takes on the World No. 18 Anthony Sinisuka Ginting of Indonesia.
Saina, Sindhu can face their Denmark Open conquerors
In women’s singles draw, both PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal are likely to cross paths with their Denmark Open conquerors. World No. 2 Sindhu is seeded second and meets the 27th ranked Spaniard, Beatriz Corrales before a probable second round face-off with the 15th ranked Nitchaon Jindapol.
Things could get trickier for the India Open and Korea Open titlist in the quarter-finals as she could come up against the 10th ranked Chen Yufei. The Chinese inflicted an opening round defeat on the Indian last week where Sindhu was unable to snatch even a game.
The Indian would be itching to bounce back against the player she beat comfortably in the World Championships semi-finals in August. If she manages to surmount that barrier, she might have the third seed Sung Ji Hyun or the fifth seed Akane Yamaguchi or compatriot Saina Nehwal standing in her way in the semi-finals.
The final could present her a showdown with the top seed Tai Tzu Ying or the fourth seed Carolina Marin or the Denmark Open champion Ratchanok Intanon.
2012 runner-up Saina Nehwal has the 34th ranked Line Hojmark Kjaersfeldt of Denmark in the first round before a blockbuster clash with the 2017 Denmark Open runner-up Yamaguchi. Saina looked listless and jaded against the Japanese last week having had just 17 hours gap between her second round match and her quarter-final assignment against Yamaguchi. It will be interesting to see how she fares this time.
Tough opener for Sikki and Pranaav
In mixed doubles, the India No. 1 pair of Pranaav Jerry Chopra and N Sikki Reddy has a tough task as they face the fourth seeds Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir of Indonesia.
Reddy has a comparatively hassle-free opener in women’s doubles where she is paired with veteran Ashwini Ponnappa. The two begin their campaign against the English duo of Jenny Moore and Victoria Williams, following which the top seeds Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi wait for them in Round 2.
Having been drawn against qualifiers, the India No. 1 men’s doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty will aim for a second round berth against the sixth seeds Mads Conrad-Petersen and Mads Pieler Kolding. Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy will take on Russians Vladimir Ivanov and Ivan Sozonov in their opener.