Eyeing a highly-coveted Tokyo Olympics berth, the top shuttlers return to action at the Swiss Open to be held in Basel from March 2 to 7. With this Super 300 tournament, the Olympic qualifying window resumes and will continue till June 15.
The competition could be fierce, as the world's best players set their sights on winning the title and earning valuable points for the Race to Tokyo. After recharging their batteries following the January tournaments, the well-rested shuttlers will look to put on a mesmerising show i St. Jakobshalle.
PV Sindhu seeded second at the Swiss Open
The Rio Olympic silver medalist, PV Sindhu has received the second seeding in the 32-player field. The Swiss Open will be her first big test and will help her to gauge her level as she looks to seal her Tokyo spot.
The 25-year-old didn't have the best of outings in January, with a solitary quarterfinal being her best performance in the three Thailand tournaments. Sindhu will be eager to bounce back and make a statement at the Swiss Open, where she opens her campaign against World No. 29 Neslihan Yigit.
After a possible second-round showdown with Indonesia's Ruselli Hartawan, Sindhu is slated to come across fifth seed Busanan Ongbamrungphan, whom she beat a month ago.
One of fourth seed Mia Blichfeldt, sixth seed Sung Ji Hyun or the unseeded Saina Nehwal could await her in the semifinals. Blichfeldt got the better of Sindhu at the Yonex Thailand Open, so the Indian will need to be at her best to exact revenge.
Sung Ju Hyun has beaten Sindhu as many as eight times. The Korean's defensive game, coupled with her controlled aggression, makes her a tough match for the India No. 1.
Unseeded Saina Nehwal faces early Sung challenge at the Swiss Open
Saina Nehwal holds a 3-1 lead in her head-to-head record with her younger compatriot PV Sindhu. The two haven't crossed swords since the 2018 Commonwealth Games, so Indian fans will be eagerly waiting to see the two shuttle queens lock horns again.
The Swiss Open has been a happy hunting ground for the former World No. 1. Nehwal has tasted glory at this tournament twice in the past; she will hope to bring that form to progress deep into the draw. But her path to the title match will not be without hurdles.
The India No. 2 meets the former World Junior Championships bronze medallist Phittayaporn Chaiwan in the first round. If she beats the talented youngster, Saina will face a huge obstacle in the form of Sung Ji Hyun.
Saina Nehwal does hold a 9-3 record against the veteran Korean, but her recent results don't inspire much confidence. Nevertheless, if she does recover her fighting spirit and manages to get past Sung, Blichfeldt and Sindhu could await the former Swiss Open champion.
Eight Indians in the Swiss Open men's singles draw
Former champions Kidambi Srikanth, HS Prannoy and Sameer Verma lead a total of eight Indian players in the men's singles draw at the 2021 Swiss Open. There has been an Indian men's singles winner in three of the last five times the Swiss Open has been held.
The Indian male shuttlers look to get win the Swiss Open crown that was last worn by Sameer Verma in 2018. For Verma to repeat his success, he will have to first overcome fellow Indian Srikanth in a mouthwatering opening-round clash between two former winners of the Swiss Open.
Meanwhile, Prannoy faces the 36th-ranked Mark Caljouw in his Swiss Open opener, while the young Lakshya Sen squares off against Thai veteran Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk. Among other Indians, fifth seed B Sai Praneeth takes on Misha Zilberman, and 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Parupalli Kashyap will lock horns with Spain's Pablo Abian.
In his Swiss Open opener, former world no. 13 Ajay Jayaram faces world no. 29 Sitthikom Thammasin for the very first time, while three-time national champion Sourabh Verma will lock horns with local hope Christian Kirchmayr up first.
All the three former Indian champions - Srikanth, Verma and Prannoy are placed in the same half of the Swiss Open as the in-form world no. 2 Viktor Axelsen. The Dane won two back-to-back events in January while also reaching the final of the World Tour Finals. He is undoubtedly the player to beat at the moment.
Satwik-Chirag will look to continue good form at the Swiss Open
With former world no. 1 Mathias Boe by their side, the top Indian doubles shuttlers will embark on a Swiss Open journey full of hope and confidence. In this regard, all eyes will be on the world no. 10 pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty as they aim to book their maiden Olympic berth.
The duo, who reached the semifinals at the Toyota Thailand Open, will look to continue the good run after being seeded second at the Swiss Open. They take on the Scottish combine of Christopher Grimley and Matthew Grimley in the first round.
Meanwhile, MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila, the other Indian pair in the men's doubles field at the 2021 Swiss Open, have an uphill task against seventh seeds Vladimir Ivanov and Ivan Sozonov.
In women's doubles, Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy have a relatively easier opening-round challenge against Germans Annabella Jaeger and Stine Kuspert.
In mixed doubles, Ponnappa will aim to create fireworks alongside Satwiksairaj at the Swiss Open, a month after making the semis of the Toyota Thailand Open. The pair will look to start their campaign with an upset of second seeds Hafiz Faizal and Gloria Emanuelle Widjaja.
Meanwhile, Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Sikki Reddy too will have to put their best foot forward against third seeds Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith.