Japan Open 2019: Sindhu, Srikanth, Ponnappa all handed tough draws
The Indian contingent, which is still looking to find its foothold on the BWF circuit this season, has been handed tricky draws at the 2019 DAIHATSU Yonex Japan Open.
While PV Sindhu's final showing in Jakarta last week has inspired confidence in the camp, a podium finish in the Japanese capital still remains a distant dream for the Indians players/pairs.
Here is a look at the prospects of the top-ranked Indian shuttlers in fray this week.
Men's and women's singles
The highest ranked Indian in the fray, Kidambi Srikanth has been pitted against compatriot HS Pranoy in the opening round of the tournament. Neither of the two are having a great season and have under-performed in tournaments this year.
Srikanth, in particular, is having a quiet season by his standards. There have been some injury concerns for the top shuttler in recent past and he is yet to play a match with 100% fitness. That said, one can expect a highly entertaining match from these two, one along the lines of the national finals that they have played together.
Their section of the draw remains packed, with the legendary Lin Dan or Danish star Jan O Jorgenson being possible second round opponents, although things could get easy from the quarterfinals stage.
Playing a high ranking Chinese player in the opening round is always a difficult ask for anyone. And that is exactly what Sindhu will have do on Wednesday, when she'll step out against World No.12 Han Yue.
If Sindhu wins that encounter, she could face talentend Scottish shuttler Kirsty Gilmour in the second round. Things only get tougher from there on, with top seeds possibly awaiting in the next rounds (including Akane Yamaguchi, who beat Sindhu comfortably in Jakarta).
The lean Indian will have to be at her best if she wishes to continue her good run in the circuit.
Ashwini Ponnappa will spearhead the doubles campaign for India at yet another tournament. She has been handed an extremely difficult draw in women's doubles, where she plays alongside Nelakurihi Sikki Reddy. Top-ranked South Korean and Chinese pairs in the opening rounds are going to present serious obstacles in their chances of progressing to the medal rounds, and the Indian pair's chances look bleak.
Ponnappa has a better shot at glory in mixed doubles. She and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy have had promising results in the past, and their second round opponents from Thaliand come off as the least threatening of the seeds. The Indian pair, have a negative record against them, but still might fancy their chances for an upset here.
Satwik will also be looking to make an impact in the men's doubles with partner Chirag Shetty. With a relatively easier draw to build on, the pair has the brightest chance on paper among all the Indians in contention this week.