With the Orleans Masters 2021 being a Tokyo Olympic qualifier, the competition will be fierce in the first BWF Super 100 tournament of the season. The tournament will present the shuttlers, who made an early exit from the All England Open last week, an opportunity to bounce back.
India's Kidambi Srikanth, the former world no. 1, has received the top billing at Orleans Masters 2021. He will hope to turn things around after crashing out in the first round in Birmingham last week.
At the Orleans Masters, his path to the latter stages looks relatively smooth. If Srikanth can stem his errors and discover his aggressive game, he would fancy his chances of lifting the trophy.
After a first-round bye, the top seed is likely to kickstart his campaign against former world no. 13 Ajay Jayaram.
A quarter-final showdown with senior compatriot and fifth seed Parupalli Kashyap could be next on the horizon for the world no. 14. The two have evenly split their four meetings so far, with Srikanth winning their last two face-offs in three games. Thus another thriller could be on the cards if they lock horns at the 2021 Orleans Masters.
Meanwhile, either fourth seed Kunlavut Vitidsarn or seventh seed HS Prannoy could be up against Srikanth in the semi-finals if the seedings hold true.
Srikanth has a 0-1 losing record in his head-to-head against the world junior champion Vitidsarn. So it will be interesting to see if the Indian can exact revenge for his 2020 Badminton Asia Team Championships loss if he plays Vitidsarn at the Orleans Masters.
Meanwhile, third seed Hans-Kristian Solberg Vittinghus is the highest seed left in the bottom half of the draw at the 2021 Orleans Masters after a spate of withdrawals.
He is slated to face Srikanth in the final. The Irishman knocked out Srikanth last week at Birmingham and thus remains a dangerous floater in the men's singles draw at the Orleans Masters 2021. The top seed will also need to be wary of Nhat Nguyen, though
This section is packed with Indian shuttlers, with as many as ten players from the country vying for the title. Other than Srikanth, Kashyap, Prannoy, Chirag Sen and BM Rahul Bharadwaj are the others to get first-round byes.
In the Orleans Masters first-round matches scheduled for March 23, Ajay Jayaram will take on Alap Mishra in an all-Indian clash. Subhankar Dey will take on Denmark's Ditlev Jaeger Holm first up; Mithun Manjunath will face France's Lucas Claerbout, while Kiran George will cross swords with Dutch veteran Mark Caljouw.
Saina Nehwal seeded fourth at the Orleans Masters 2021
Saina Nehwal is the biggest Indian name in the 2021 Orleans Masters women's singles draw, with rising star Ira Sharma being the only other player from the country.
Even though the fourth seed has a relatively easy opener against Ireland's unheralded Rachael Darragh, it remains to be seen if she has fully recovered from the hip injury she suffered at the All England Open. If Nehwal's fitness issues don't flare up, she could pretty much coast through the draw to reach the Orleans Masters final.
The other half of the draw, however, has a couple of names who are capable of making Nehwal's life difficult in the summit clash.
Top seed Pornpawee Chochuwong made the final of the All England Open and will look to go one better this week. Third seed Busanan Ongbamrungphan, too, has the game and experience to trouble Nehwal, especially if the Indian is not at 100%.
Ponnappa-Reddy look to continue good form at the Orleans Masters 2021
The eighth seeds will open their campaign against Denmark's Amalie Magelund and Freja Ravn. They are slated to meet top seeds Jongolphan Kititharakul and Rawinda Prajongjai in the semi-finals.
India have another team in women's doubles - Ashna Roy and Anto Agna - who will face Indonesia's Yulfira Barkah and Febby Valencia Dwijayanti Gani in their New Orleans tournament-opener.
In men's doubles, MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila are seeded seventh and will take on England's Matthew Clare and Ethan Van Leeuwen in their opener.
Meanwhile, Krishna Prasad Garaga and Vishnu Vardhan Goud Panjala are the other Indian men's doubles pair who have come through the qualifiers to make the main draw at the 2021 Orleans Masters.
India have two teams in mixed doubles at the 2021 Orleans Masters. The seasoned pair of Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Sikki Reddy will lock horns with Austria's unseeded Dominik Stipsits and Serena Au Yeong.
Meanwhile, Ashwini Ponnappa and Dhruv Kapila have Bulgaria's Iliyan Stoyanov and Hristomira Popovska in the first round.