Indonesia Open 2018: Kidambi Srikanth faces Asian champion Kento Momota, easier draw for Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu
A preview and analysis of the chances of the Indian shuttlers at this high-profile badminton tournament to be held in July
Defending champion Kidambi Srikanth faces a tough road if he wants to taste success at the Indonesia Open for a second year in a row. The draw of this Super 1000 tournament, beginning on July 3, got released on Tuesday and it pits the 2017 winner against the newly-crowned Asian champion Kento Momota in the first round.
Srikanth has a losing 3-5 head-to-head record against the Japanese. Considering Momota’s confident run on the circuit of late, that includes wins over the likes of Chen Long and Lee Chong Wei, the Indian would need to be on the guard right from the first point.
If the World No. 4 does indeed manage to overcome the Japanese barrier, he will have a couple more dangermen in the form of the sixth seeded Chou Tien Chen in the quarter-finals and the seventh seeded Lee Chong Wei or the second seeded Son Wan Ho in the semi-finals.
Prannoy faces Lin Dan
Eighth seed HS Prannoy had a remarkable giant-killing run at this very tournament last year. He was on course for a place in the first Superseries final of his career, but failed to make use of the five match points that he got and went down in the semi-finals.
A year later, he has to put in the same gigantic effort if he wants to have a repeat of that performance. He starts his campaign against the two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan. The two are tied at 1-1 in their head-to-head record, with Prannoy winning their last encounter.
So, beating the Chinese legend is not an entirely impossible task for the Kerala shuttler and if he can pull it off, he could meet compatriot Sai Praneeth, provided the Singapore Open winner beats the World No. 15 Wang Tzu Wei.
In the quarter-finals, Prannoy will have an even harder job with his likely opponent being the reigning All England Open champion Shi Yuqi.
Meanwhile, Swiss Open titlist Sameer Verma hopes to breathe easy in the first round with World No. 29 Rasmus Gemke waiting for him there. A win there will set him up against the top seed Viktor Axelsen in Round 2.
Sindhu has easier draw than Saina
In women’s singles, India will be represented by the trio of Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu and Vaishnavi Reddy Jakka.
The third seeded Sindhu -- the only Indian to receive a seeding in this category -- takes on the 25th ranked Pornpawee Chochuwong of Thailand. India Open champion Beiwen Zhang is then expected to be her second round opponent and Sindhu would very much like to avenge her India Open final defeat.
Eight seed He Bingjiao -- tied at 5-5 with Sindhu in their 10 career meetings -- should undoubtedly pose quite a challenge for the India No 1. Having said that, the World No. 3 did win their last couple of showdowns, even though both the matches went the distance.
Top seed Tai Tzu Ying or the sixth seed Carolina Marin will be there waiting for the lanky Indian on her entry into the last-four.
The women’s singles draw is bottom heavy with a host of big names packed together in that section. Akane Yamaguchi, Chen Yufei, Ratchanok Intanon, Nozomi Okuhara, Sung Ji Hyun and India’s three-time champion Saina Nehwal are all in the bottom half.
Nehwal takes on local hope Dinar Dyah Ayustine in the first round. A win will put her against the World Championships bronze medallist and fifth seed Chen Yufei. If she can get a win there, one of the two formidable Japanese -- Okuhara or Yamaguchi -- will be looming for the Indian.
The former World No. 1 has lost her last encounters to both and will have her hands full this time as well.
Besides Saina and Sindhu, 16-year-old Vaishnavi Reddy Jakka is up against the World No. 27 Line Hojmark Kjaersfeldt of Denmark.
In men’s doubles, India will be represented by the top two pairs from the country. Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty take on Hiroyuki Endo and Yuta Watanabe of Japan. Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy have the third seeds Liu Cheng and Zhang Nan in the first round.
The India No. 1 mixed doubles duo of Pranaav Jerry Chopra and N Sikki Reddy -- India’s only entrant in this category -- will have to deal with the fourth seeds Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong in the first round.
In women’s doubles, Meghana Jakkampudi and Poorvisha S Ram are the only representatives from India in the absence of Reddy and Ashwini Ponnappa.