French Open preview: Can PV Sindhu take advantage of a depleted draw?
After a disastrous campaign at last week’s Denmark Open Superseries Premier where none of the Indian shuttlers reached the quarter-finals, the contingent would be gunning to redeem themselves at this week’s French Open Superseries to be held in Paris from October 25. The onus definitely lies on Rio Olympic silver medallist PV Sindhu’s young shoulders to make an impact after crashing out in the second round at Odense last week.
To make matters easier for her, the top two seeds in this event – the Olympic champion Carolina Marin and the former world champion Ratchanok Intanon have withdrawn before the start of the tournament. With two of the biggest names out, can the 21-year-old Indian make the most of this golden opportunity to engrave her name on a Superseries event trophy for the first time in her career?
We take a detailed look at her draw:
The sixth seed begins her challenge against the World No. 34 Yip Pui Yin of Hong Kong against whom she has a 1-0 record. Her second round opponent, He Bingjiao can be tough but Sindhu also has the confidence of winning the most recent showdown with the World No. 11 that happened at the Denmark Open.
With the pull-out of Intanon, the highest-ranked player that the Indian star can face in the quarter-finals is the 22nd ranked Line Kjaersfeldt. That should boost the Indian’s chances further given she leads their head-to-head meeting 1-0.
Without a doubt, the competition does get tighter from the semi-finals and Sindhu can come up against the fourth seed Tai Tzu Ying or the fifth seed Ji Hyun Sung in her quest for her first final in Paris. Between them, it is the Chinese Taipei girl who can prove to be a danger for the two-time World Championship bronze medallist.
Tai is coming into this tournament high on momentum having reached the final at Denmark last Sunday and will be looking to continue her stellar run this week too. But Sindhu too can take a lot of inspiration from her last outing against Tai which happened in the pre-quarter-finals of the Rio Olympics.
The Indian was dominant from start to finish in that match and won it in straight games. If she plays with as much conviction as she did at the Olympics, there is no reason why she cannot win again.
The biggest challenge for Sindhu can come in the form of the eighth seed Akane Yamaguchi who has been on a roll recently. The 19-year-old won the Korea Open and the Denmark Open and would pose quite a threat. Sindhu does have a winning record over her but it would be interesting to see how an improved Yamaguchi fares against her.
Jayaram, Prannoy, Sai Praneeth lead the men’s challenge
In men’s singles, India will be represented by the Dutch Open runner-up Ajay Jayaram, HS Prannoy and B Sai Praneeth. Jayaram faces a qualifier in his first round but his path gets considerably tougher in the very next round with the third seed Jan O Jorgensen up next for him.
HS Prannoy meets the experienced Thai shuttler Boonsak Ponsana in his opener but faces a big threat in the form of the fifth seed Chou Tien Chen who has a 2-0 record over the Indian.
The 34th ranked B Sai Praneeth kicks off his campaign against the 22nd ranked Lee Hyun II. The Indian prevailed in their last meeting and looks good to make the second round. However, that is where his job becomes more difficult with the second seed and Olympic bronze medallist Viktor Axelsen looming large.