Syed Modi tournament: Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth to star after Sindhu's exit
Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth will start favourites when they spearhead the Indian challenge at the Syed Modi International tournament, which has lost a bit of sheen with the pullout of Olympic silver medallist P V Sindhu.
The tournament begins here Tuesday.
With Sindhu missing, India will have two defending champions in the tournament with Sameer Verma looking to retain the title to enhance his chances of qualifying for the year-ending World Tour Final. The mixed doubles pair of Pranaav Jerry Chopra and N Sikki Reddy, too, will eye a repeat.
Sindhu decided to skip the event to focus on next month's World Tour Finals in China but there won't be any shortage of star power when the World Tour Super 300 event gets underway with the qualifiers.
In Sindhu's absence, Saina will be the cynosure of all eyes and the celebrated Indian has been in decent form this year having won a gold at the Commonwealth Games and a bronze at the Asian Games. She reached the finals at the Indonesia Masters in January and Denmark in October.
The London Olympic bronze medallist will look to secure her maiden BWF title of this season when she begins her campaign against Mauritius' Kate Foo Kune in the opening round.
With a host of Indians making up the draw, Saina is likely to face little resistance till her journey to the finals, where she is expected to meet former Olympic champion China's Li Xuerui, who has won at Canada, US and the China Masters after making a comeback following a two-year hiatus.
Srikanth, too, will be looking for his first title of the season after being in rampaging form last year, winning four titles. The Indian has been in decent form, winning a silver at the Commonwealth Games and reaching the quarterfinals consistently.
The Indian will hope to claim the men's singles title after winning it in 2016 following three final appearances.
However, he will face tough resistance from second seed H S Prannoy and Sameer, who won titles at Swiss Open and Hyderabad Open.
Srikanth is likely to meet Parupalli Kashyap in the second round if the 2014 Commonwealth Games champion manages to beat Thailand's Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk in the opener.
Prannoy had defeated Srikanth at the Senior Nationals final last year and played a three-game thrillers at the Hong Kong Open last week.
Prannoy will start against Thailand's Adulrach Namkul and is likely to meet 2014 Commonwealth Games bronze medallist R M V Gurusaidutt in the third round.
For that, Guru, who is trying to make a comeback after recovering from a career-threatening ankle injury, will have to fight his way against Germany's Jonathan Persson and probably Misha Zilberman of Israel to enter the quarterfinals.
Fourth seed B Sai Praneeth, who had won the Singapore Open last year, will square off against Russia's Sergey Sirant in the opening match, while Subhankar Dey, who claimed his maiden title at SaarLorLux Open, will open against China's Zhou Zeqi.
Seventh seed Sourabh Verma, who won titles at Russia and Dutch Open, will start against China's Zhou Zeqi.
Also in action would be eighth seeded India's top men's doubles pairs of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, who are the silver medallists at the Commonwealth Games, and National champions Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy.
The women's doubles pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy will also look to put their best foot forward, while Ashwini will also pair up with Satwik in mixed doubles.
(With inputs from agencies.)