After a hectic few weeks of playing in the fifth season of Premier Badminton League (PBL) and the Badminton Asia Team Championships, Indian shuttlers will seek individual glory at the Barcelona Spain Masters that gets under way in the Catalan capital today.
The cream of Indian badminton will be vying for the titles and Olympic berths, led by former World No. 1 Saina Nehwal. The London Olympic bronze medallist is the fifth seed at this Super 300 tournament and is the only Indian in the women's singles draw in the absence of PV Sindhu.
The 29-year-old, who opted out of PBL, will be seen in action for the first time in a month after winning just two out of five matches in an inconsistent start to the 2020 season. After a knee injury scuppered her medal chances in Rio de Janeiro , Nehwal has been very meticulous in planning her schedule in order not to exert much ahead of Tokyo.
A rested and rejuvenated Nehwal will be raring to go as she hunts a spot at the Olympics for the fourth time. The 18th-ranked Indian is currently at the No. 22 position in the Race to Tokyo rankings and needs to make a big push to re-enter the top 16 before the cut-off ends in April.
Nehwal will be beginning her title quest against Germany's World No. 42 Yvonne Li in a draw that is headed by the reigning Olympic champion Carolina Marin. While the Spanish southpaw cannot meet Nehwal before the final, the Indian will have to cope with the likes of third seed Busanan Ongbamrungphan in the quarter-finals and sixth seed Pornpawee Chochuwong in the semi-finals in the bottom half of the draw.
The tournament will be an acid test for former World No. 1 Kidambi Srikanth among the Indian men. Having recovered from an ankle injury, Srikanth will be battling for a coveted berth at the mega quadrennial Games to join compatriot Sai Praneeth. The 12th-ranked Srikanth is currently languishing at the 26th spot in the Race to Tokyo rankings, behind the likes of Sourabh Verma and Parupalli Kashyap.
With just seven weeks remaining in the Olympic qualification period, the Guntur-born shuttler needs to summon the champion in him to dazzle on the BWF World Tour and materialize his dream. Srikanth did display some of that spark in his two singles wins in three appearances at the Badminton Asia Team Championships last week and he would eager to carry the momentum into the Barcelona Masters this week.
The third seed couldn't have asked for a better draw. In his first round, he faces compatriot Subhankar Dey and a win could pit him against another compatriot, Ajay Jayaram. That said, Dey did show some good form at the continental team event, validated by his big win over World No. 20 Shesar Hiren Rhustavito, and would pose quite a threat for Srikanth.
In a men's singles main draw that sees as many as six Indians participating, Sameer Verma faces Lucas Claerbout following the withdrawal of World Championships bronze medallist Sai Praneeth, who pulled his hamstring last week.
2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Parupalli Kashyap takes on Brazil's World No. 48 Ygor Coelho while HS Prannoy has a tricky opener against former World No. 10 Daren Liew.
With Satwiksairaj Rankireddy still recuperating from his ankle injury, the men's doubles draw has only one Indian pair - Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Krishna Prasad Garaga. The duo will lock horns with World No. 32 Ben Lane and Sean Vendy.
Ashwini Ponnappa makes her comeback from injury alongside Sikki Reddy in women's doubles, where the pair faces third seeds Gabriela Stoeva and Stefani Stoeva after getting a walkover into Round 2. In mixed doubles, Reddy and Chopra have been drawn to face the tough Danish duo of Mathias Christiansen and Alexandra Boje in the first round.
Here's all you need to know about the Spain Masters 2020 Schedule:
Tournament: Barcelona Spain Masters 2020
Category: BWF World Tour Super 300
City: Barcelona, Spain
Venue: Vall d'Hebron Olympic Sports Centre
Prize money: USD 170, 000
Tournament schedule: February 18-23, 2020
Where to watch the matches in India?
The Barcelona Spain Masters 2020 matches will be telecast live on Star Sports 2 and Star Sports 2 HD from the semi-final stages.
Spain Masters live stream details
Live Stream will be available on Hotstar.com from the semi-final stages.Published 18 Feb 2020, 12:32 IST