Lucknow , jan 23: Saina Nehwal’s decision to give it a miss has taken away some sheen but Olympic silver-medallist P V Sindhu will ensure that Syed Modi International is not short of star power when the Grand Prix Gold event gets underway with the qualifiers.
Fresh from her comeback win at Malaysia Masters Grand Prix Gold, Saina, a three-time winner here, has opted out.
“No I am not playing as it was a tough three weeks for me after the PBL and Malaysia open win and I am still not 100 per cent with my knee strength. I need some more time to be fully fit physically,” Saina told PTI.
“But I am happy I played some great badminton in last three weeks but to beat top level players, I need to be at my best and I still need some more time be at my best fitness. It’s not easy to perform unless you have the best fitness at the super series level,” she added.
Perhaps unaware of her pullout, the organisers has given the second seeding to Saina.
On the other hand, it has been a dream run for Sindhu in international circuit ever since the Indian clinched the Olympic silver medal at the Rio Olympics in August.
The 21-year-old continued her rampaging run as she sealed her maiden Super Series title at China Open Premier, before reaching the finals at Hong Kong Open and qualifying for the prestigious BWF Dubai Super Series Finals in December last year.
The girl from Hyderabad has been simply unstoppable as she then guided her team Chennai Smashers to a title win at the Premier badminton League (PBL) less than a fortnight ago and will be the hot favourite to clinch the women’s title at Syed Modi, which has a depleted field.
Seeded top, Sindhu will face Anura Prabhudesai in the opening round and is likely to clash with fourth seed Fitriani Fitriani in the semifinals if she doesn’t suffer any hiccups.
In the men’s draw, K Srikanth will be looking to make a successful comeback into the international circuit after spending four months on the sidelines due to an ankle injury.
“I haven’t reached the fitness that I had before the Olympics but I am fit enough to compete at Syed Modi and I am looking forward to defending my title to get back my confidence ahead of the upcoming important tournaments,” World No.15 Srikanth told PTI.
Srikanth will have his task cut out in a draw which doesn’t have any top-10 player but has some tricky players such as Denmark’s HK Vittinghus and Thailand’s top seed Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk, besides compatriots H S Prannoy and Ajay Jayaram, who have been in good form in the PBL.
“It is a tough competition, there are some very good players, so it is not going to be easy,” said the third-seeded Srikanth, who will take on compatriot Lakhanee Sarang in the opening round.
Prannoy too will look to make a resounding start to the new season especially after his rampaging unbeaten run for his team Mumbai Rockets at the PBL. The sixth seed will face NVS Vijetha.
World No.19 Jayaram also had a decent run at the PBL and reached the semifinals at the Malaysia Masters last week and will be itching for a win. He will begin his campaign against fellow Indian Oscar Bansal.
In mixed doubles, second seeds Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Sikki Reddy are clubbed in the second half, while newly-formed pairs of Jwala Gutta and Manu Attri and Ashwini Ponnappa and B Sumeeth Reddy will also be in the fray.
In men’s doubles, third seeds Manu Attri and B Sumeeth reddy will lead the Indian challenge, while the pair of Aparna Balan and Prajakta Sawant and newly-formed combination of Ashwini and Sikki will also be in the fray in women’s doubles.