Malaysia Masters 2019: Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth lead Indian challenge
The top Indian shuttlers will return to action this week as the main draw of the Malaysia Masters 2019 will get underway in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday. Leading India’s charge at the first Super 500 tournament of the year are Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth while PV Sindhu has opted to rest.
All eyes will be on Srikanth after his exploits at the Premier Badminton League 2018-19. The former World No. 1 showed immense glimpses of the devastating form that gave him four Superseries titles in 2017. He finished the league unbeaten, winning eight matches in a row and played a crucial role in the Bengaluru Raptors’ maiden title victory.
With his jump smashes working to perfection, Srikanth would hope to start the new season with a bang.
The seventh seed takes on former Hong Kong Open winner NG Ka Long Angus in his opening round. He could then come up against World No. 35 Mark Caljouw, who impressed at the PBL 2018-19, where he donned the jersey of the Season 3 champions Hyderabad Hunters.
It would be interesting to see the Pullela Gopichand ace locking horns with either the fourth seed Son Wan Ho or World No. 18 Anders Antonsen in the quarter-finals. Both fell to an irrepressible Srikanth at the just-concluded league.
Eighth seed Tommy Sugiarto is Srikanth’s likely semi-final opponent and was another one of Srikanth’s victims during his PBL rampage.
Top seed Kento Momota or third seed Chen Long or sixth seed Anthony Sinisuka Ginting has a good chance to reach the final from the other half of the draw and Srikanth would indeed be presented with a stiff challenge there.
Former Commonwealth Games champion Parupalli Kashyap is the only other Indian in men’s singles. The 32-year-old, who had to qualify for the main draw, faces the World No. 20 Rasmus Gemke in his opener.
For former champion Saina Nehwal too, it won’t be a hassle-free affair as all the best shuttlers in the world are featuring in the draw. Seeded seventh, she begins her challenge against World No. 37 Deng Joy Xuan and looks to have a potential second-round meeting with Indonesian qualifier Ruselli Hartawan.
While her first couple of rounds should be a cakewalk for the former World No. 1, the level of opposition increases once she enters the quarter-finals. Second seed Nozomi Okuhara will be Saina’s first big threat and fourth seed Carolina Marin could be waiting for her next, should she get past the Japanese.
With the top seed Tai Tzu Ying and the third seed Akane Yamaguchi being in the top half of the draw, Saina needs to be at her impeccable best if she wants to make a statement at this tournament.
India doesn’t have any team in the men’s doubles section. In women’s doubles, Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy will be up against Hong Kong’s NG Tsz Yau and Yuen Sin Ying. The mixed doubles pair of Chopra and Reddy have a comparatively easier task as they meet qualifiers Robin Tabeling and Selena Piek.