Hong Kong Open 2017: Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu handed tough draws
An analysis of the Indian shuttlers' chances at the Hong Kong Open Superseries, the main draw action of which gets underway on Wednesday
If the Indian shuttlers wanted to finish the Superseries season on a high, they need to be at their flawless best and cannot afford to make too many mistakes. The $400,000 Yonex-Sunrise Hong Kong Open 2017 in Kowloon presents the Indians with a challenging situation and none can boast of an easy draw.
All eyes will be on the ones, who are aiming to grab a coveted spot at the World Superseries Finals that is scheduled to be held in Dubai from December 13. Former Superseries Finals runner-up Saina Nehwal and the reigning US Open champion HS Prannoy are still in contention in their respective categories, albeit their chances look very slim as of now.
2010 Hong Kong Open champion Nehwal begins her campaign against the 44th ranked Mette Poulsen. It only gets harder from there as she has the eighth seeded Chen Yufei in the second round and the top-ranked Tai Tzu Ying in the quarter-finals.
While Tai is the defending champion, the 19-year-old Chen has soared to the World No. 9 spot and is performing with a maturity that is beyond her age. Ever since clinching a bronze at the World Championships, she has reached at least the quarter-final stage in her next three Superseries tournaments and is undoubtedly the favourite due to her sheer consistency.
Anything other than a title win in Kowloon could dash all World Superseries Finals hopes of Nehwal and at the moment, that looks very much out of reach unless Saina suddenly finds her old magic.
For HS Prannoy too, the path is as danger-riddled as Saina’s. He is currently 10th in the Destination Dubai Rankings and is in a tight race with five others that also includes the Olympic champion Chen Long, who bagged the China Open title last week.
Long leapfrogged Prannoy into the ninth place with that and it will need a strong show from the Kerala shuttler to get that Dubai berth. He faces the 24th ranked Hu Yun in the first round on overcoming whom, the world champion Viktor Axelsen waits for him in the second round.
Prannoy will need to replicate his Indonesia Open giant-killing run to strengthen his position and hope that he does better than the other contenders.
Sindhu aims to find the missing spark
2016 runner-up PV Sindhu too cannot breathe easy. She put on a spectacular show at the last couple of Superseries tournaments in 2016 and won the China Open while finishing second-best in Hong Kong. This time it is much different.
She has been struggling for consistency ever since she triumphed at the Korea Open. In her next four Superseries assignments, she managed to get past the quarter-finals only once. Last week, it was reported that she was not feeling well on the day of her quarter-final clash with the unheralded Gao Fangjie and it was evident as she collapsed into a one-sided loss.
Sindhu’s Dubai slot is already confirmed but her aim should be to find that missing spark back before she takes on the world’s best in Dubai.
The task is not easy. She has the China Open champion Akane Yamaguchi in the quarter-finals. She absolutely faded away in the second game the last time they met at the French Open quarter-finals. Sindhu has to find her staying power as well as guts to fight it out against a player, who has been in dazzling form in the past few weeks.
In men’s singles, Parupalli Kashyap is the only one who looks to have a good chance of progressing into the last-eight. The Commonwealth Games champion qualified for this event and has fellow qualifier, Lee Dong Keun in the first round.
Sourabh Verma meets Tommy Sugiarto while Singapore Open Superseries winner B Sai Praneeth has a huge hurdle in the form of the second seeded Son Wan Ho in his opener.
In men’s doubles, national champions Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy start their challenge against the Malaysian-Korean qualifying duo of Khim Wah Lim and Yoo Yeon Seong. The women’s doubles national champions, Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy take on Huang Dongping and Li Wenmei of China.
Here’s the complete schedule of first round matches of Team India
Parupalli Kashyap vs Lee Dong Keun at 9.30am
Sourabh Verma vs Tommy Sugiarto at 9.30am
HS Prannoy vs Hu Yun at 2pm
B Sai Praneeth vs (2) Son Wan Ho at 7.45pm
Saina Nehwal vs Mette Poulsen at 8am
(2) PV Sindhu vs Leung Yuet Yee at 1.15pm
Manu Attri/Sumeeth Reddy vs Khim Wah Lim/Yoo Yeon Seong at 7pm
Ashwini Ponnappa/Sikki Reddy vs Huang Dongping/Li Wenmei at 12.30pm
(All timings in Indian Standard Time)