All England Championships: Tough Draw for India’s Star Shuttlers
Nehwal in line to face No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying in the quarters, Sindhu on collision course with third seed Chen Yufei.
India's dream of breaking an 18-year-old title jinx at the All England Open Championships got tougher after the country's star shuttlers, including PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal, were handed a tricky draw in the World Tour Super 1000 tournament starting from 6 March.
Olympic silver medallist Sindhu, who had reached the semi-finals last year after reaching her maiden final in 2017, will open her campaign against South Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun, while Indonesia Masters champion Nehwal faces Kirsty Gilmour of Scotland in the first round.
Both Sindhu and Nehwal are currently featuring at the Senior National Championships, and will head straight to Birmingham for the latest edition of badminton’s oldest competition.
The last Indian to win the prestigious crown was present chief coach Pullela Gopichand, in 2001, while the legendary Prakash Padukone won India’s first All England title in 1980.
Sindhu, presently ranked sixth in the world, will have to be cautious against Hyun, who had defeated her at the Hong Kong Open last year. If she gets past her opener, the 23-year-old is likely to face third seed Chen Yufei in the quarter-finals.
Former world number one Nehwal, who had reached the All England final in 2015, made a good start to the new season with a semi-final finish at the Malaysia Masters and a title win at Indonesia.
But the 2012 Olympics bronze medallist is in line to meet world number one Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei in the quarter-finals, whom she has failed to beat in their last 11 encounters.
The absence of reigning Olympic and world champion Carolina Marin, who has been ruled out due to the knee injury she suffered during the Indonesia Masters final against Nehwal, leaves the women’s singles draw a little more open than before.
In the men's singles, Kidambi Srikanth, who missed the Senior Nationals due to a minor issue with his ankle, will take on Frenchman Brice Leverdez – ranked outside the top-25 as things stand – in the opening round.
But if he is to get through him, the seventh-seeded Indian is likely to take on world number one Kento Momota next in the quarter-finals. Momota had got the better of Srikanth on five occasions last season.
Sameer Verma, who reached the semi-finals at the World Tour Finals, will start his campaign against former world number one and 2017 champion Viktor Axelsen of Denmark.
B Sai Praneeth and HS Prannoy, meanwhile, have been paired against each other in the opening round, with the winner likely to take on Indonesia's Anthony Ginting.
The women's doubles pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy will be meeting the seventh-seeded Japanese duo of Shiho Tanaka and Koharu Yonemoto, while Meghana Jakkampudi and Poorvisha S Ram will square up against Russia's Ekaterina Bolotova and Alina Davletova.
National champions Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy will face China’s Ou Xuanyi and Ren Xiangyu in the first round of the men’s doubles.
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