PV Sindhu will face a tough test on her return from a five-month injury lay-off as top Indian shuttlers, including HS Prannoy and Lakshya Sen, will aim to start the year on a positive note at the Malaysia Open from Tuesday.
Following a highly-successful 2022, India’s star shuttlers will hope to raise the bar further in 2023, during which the Paris Olympic qualification period will start in May. With plenty of ranking points at stake, Indian shuttlers will join the other big stars such as World No.1 Viktor Axelsen, Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia, Akane Yamugachi, Tai Tzu ying as they aim for a good show in the USD 1,250,000 Super 1000 tournament here.
Double Olympic medallist Sindhu, who is returning from an ankle injury, begins her campaign against former World Champion Carolina Marin of Spain. Sindhu last played at the Commonwealth Games in August and it will be an interesting battle against Marin, who has won the last three encounters against the Indian and also boasts of a better 9-5 head-to-head record.
In the men’s singles, World No.10 Sen, the only seeded Indian player, will engage in a round of one-upmanship against compatriot and world no. 8 Prannoy in the opening round. Meanwhile former world no. 1 Kidambi Srikanth will open his campaign against Japan’s unseeded Kenta Nishimoto.
A win is likely to put Srikanth up against fifth seed Jonatan Christie with defending champion Axelsen also placed in the same quarter. In the men’s doubles, World No.5 Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, who won the CWG title, India Open and French Open in 2022, will cross swords with South Korea’s Choi Sol-gyu and Kim Wan-ho in the first round.
World championships bronze medallists Satwik and Chirag, seeded seventh, are likely to face home favourites Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik in the quarterfinal if they can cross the initial rounds.
Saina Nehwal, Aakarshi Kashyap and Malvika Bansod are also in the fray in the women’s singles. While Saina will meet China’s unseeded Han Yue, Aakarshi will square up against Chinese Taipei’s Hsu Wen-chi and Malvika will face second seed An Se-young of Korea.
In women’s doubles, CWG bronze medallists Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand will take on Hong Kong’s Yeung Nga Ting and Yeung Pui Lam in the first round, while Ashwini Bhat and Shikha Gautam are pitted against Thailand’s Supissara Paewsampran and Putita Supajirakul.
India’s mixed doubles pair Ishaan Bhatnagar and Tanisha Crasto will face Netherland’s Robin Tabeling and Selena Piek in the first round.