India’s No. 1 shuttler, H S Prannoy, is all set for a much-anticipated return from a recent back injury, as the Japan Masters Super 500 tournament sets the stage for an exciting competition starting this Tuesday.
Prannoy, who withdrew from the Denmark and French Open due to the lingering back issue post his historic bronze medal win at the Asian Games, approaches his comeback cautiously. Aged 31, he faces unseeded Lee Cheuk Yui of Hong Kong in the initial rounds, with a back heavily taped.
“I am just taking it a little slowly, not rushing up on the injury side,” Prannoy mentioned to PTI before heading to Japan. “It is pretty better than how it was during the Asian Games. I have started training also.”
Should Prannoy advance through the early rounds, a significant challenge awaits against second-seeded Anthony Sinisuka Ginting of Indonesia in the quarterfinals.
The Japan Masters is not only Prannoy’s comeback platform but also an opportunity for Lakshya Sen and Kidambi Srikanth to gather crucial ranking points as the Olympic qualification period is underway until April 28 next year.
While Prannoy comfortably secures a spot within the Olympic qualification bracket at the global No. 8 ranking, Sen (No. 17) and Srikanth (No. 23) aim to solidify their positions within the top 16 by the Paris cut-off date.
Sen, the 2022 Commonwealth Games gold medalist, faces a tough opener against third-seeded Kodai Naraoka, drawing inspiration from a previous victory over the world No. 5 Japanese player at the Indonesia Masters in January.
Srikanth, starting his campaign against a qualifier, recognizes the significance of strong performances to accumulate vital ranking points for Olympic qualification. In the men’s singles category, Priyanshu Rajawat faces Lin Chun-Yi of Chinese Taipei.
In women’s singles, double Olympic medallist PV Sindhu, seeded eighth, takes on unseeded Mia Blichfeldt of Denmark, boasting a favorable 6-1 head-to-head record.
The men’s doubles category features India’s top-seeded pair, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, who commence their campaign against Chinese Taipei’s Elu Ching Yao and Yang Po Han.