Hong Kong Open 2018: PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth lead Indian challenge

Sindhu is the two-time defending runner-up
Sindhu is the two-time defending runner-up

The final Super 500 tournament of the season is scheduled to get underway at Kowloon in Hong Kong on Tuesday, where the crème de la crème of the badminton world will compete to rack up some valuable points in their bid to secure a spot at the season-ending BWF World Tour Finals in December.

From India, PV Sindhu is one of the contenders for a berth among the last-eight at this tournament and it will be interesting to see how she performs in Hong Kong, where she is also the two-time defending runner-up. Any slip could put the currently fifth-placed Sindhu in the danger zone.

The 23-year-old will begin her campaign against Nitchaon Jindapol and a win should pit her against former World No. 2 Sung Ji Hyun. But the path gets rockier for the third seed from thereon as the eighth seed He Bingjiao awaits in the quarter-finals.

Sindhu’s hopes of reaching the final for the third year in a row could be dashed by the Chinese who beat her in the last two tournaments and at the same stage, unless the Indian is better prepared to tackle Bingjiao.

The World Championships silver medallist will not be the only Indian in the women’s singles draw, as Saina Nehwal makes a return to the circuit this week. The former World No. 1 has been drawn to face the second seed Akane Yamaguchi. The Japanese won the French Open, beating the top-ranked Tai Tzu Ying last month, but lost to Nehwal in Denmark.

Inconsistency has hurt Yamaguchi this season and if she continues the same way she could fall to Nehwal again, although it would be one tough opener for both.

Possibility of Srikanth vs Prannoy clash

The men’s singles draw has as many as four Indians, led by the fourth seed Kidambi Srikanth. He takes on the 34th ranked Wong Wing Ki Vincent, whom he has beaten twice since losing their Asian Games clash. The India No. 1 can meet his Pullela Gopichand Academymate HS Prannoy in the next round, should the Indian national champion manage to beat the World No. 19 Anders Antonsen.

Sameer Verma is the only Indian men's singles shuttler with any real chance of qualifying for the BWF World Tour Finals as he is currently ninth in the race. To boost his chances of moving up into the top-eight, he needs to perform well at Hong Kong, and he is no stranger to doing so for he reached the final of this tournament two years ago.

The World No. 17 faces the 21st ranked Avihingsanon Suppanyu in the first round, on beating whom the Olympic champion Chen Long will likely wait.

B Sai Praneeth is the fourth Indian in the draw and he takes on World No. 15 Khosit Phetpradab of Thailand.

The men’s doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, who reached the semi-finals in Paris and the quarter-finals in Fuzhou, have a difficult task against former World No. 1 pair of Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen.

Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy face the Thai combine of Bodin Isara and Maneepong Jongjit.

The women’s doubles pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy meet the second seeds and Olympic champions Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi. In mixed doubles, Rankireddy and Ponnappa are the only pair representing India and they start their challenge against Chinese Taipei’s Wang Chi-Lin and Lee Chia Hsin.

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Edited by Arvind Sriram
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