Malaysia Open 2018: Saina Nehwal faces tough challenge; Kidambi Srikanth-HS Prannoy quarterfinal clash on the cards
India's Saina Nehwal has a mountain to climb as she will look to win her first BWF title of the year at the upcoming Malaysian Open to be held at the Axiata Arena from June 26 - July 1.
According to the draw released by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) earlier today (Tuesday), Saina opens her campaign in the first round against Hong Kong's Yip Pui Yin. A win will see the Commonwealth Games gold medallist taking on World No. 2 Akane Yamaguchi in the second round.
In the last 8, the Indian shuttler is expected to meet He Bingjiao while in the semis, she could face either Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand or Chen Yufei of China.
Indeed, the 28-year-old has seemed to rediscovered her old flair. However, given that Yamaguchi holds a 5-1 advantage in head-to-head meetings, getting past the second round stage might be tough for Saina.
PV Sindhu, on the other hand, has been drawn on the other half of the draw alongside World No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying and Olympic champion Carolina Marin. The 22-year-old shuttler, who takes on Japan's Aya Ohori in the first round, will be expected to make it at least to the semis.
If Sindhu can go all the way and beat Tai Tzu in the last 4, and if Saina can hold up her end, the two Indians might meet in the final.
In men's singles, World No. 4 Kidambi Srikanth has been handed a relatively easy draw with the likes of Viktor Axelson, Lee Chong Wei, Lin Dan and Shi Yuqi all on the other half.
Srikanth begins his campaign against former World No. 2 Jan O Jorgensen. If he gets past that hurdle, in the second round he might meet countryman B Sai Praneeth. In the quarters, a tougher challenge awaits in the form of another countryman, HS Prannoy.
The World No. 8 has been drawn against Jonatan Christie in the first round while he will meet one of Brice Leverdez or Hans-Kristian Solberg Vittinghus in the second.
Sameer Verma, the other Indian in the fray, will take on Tommy Sugiarto in the first round and should he win, the 23-year-old will face World No. 5 Chen Long in the pre-quarters.
In men's doubles, Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, the pair who gave the Thomas Cup a miss, will face seventh seeds Takuto Inoue and Yuki Kaneko of Japan in the first round. Manu Attri and B. Sumeeth Reddy, meanwhile, will take on Indonesian pair Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan.
Surprisingly, India does not have any representation in women's doubles with Ashwini Ponnappa sitting out of the tournament.
In mixed doubles, N Sikki Reddy and Pranaav Jerry Chopra, who lead India's charge, will take on fourth seeds Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong of China in the first round. Unseeded pair of Rohan Kapoor and Kuhoo Garg take on eighth seeds He Jiting and Du Yue of China.