Saina, Sindhu to Renew Rivalry as Senior National C’Ships Begin
PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal had contested the title clash at the National Championships in 2018, where Nehwal clinched a third Nationals crown.
PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal had contested the title clash at the National Championships in 2018, where Nehwal clinched a third Nationals crown.(Photo: IANS)

Saina, Sindhu to Renew Rivalry as Senior National C’Ships Begin

The queens of Indian badminton, Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu, will reignite their on-field rivalry at home turf as the 83rd edition of the Senior National Badminton Championships gets underway with the qualifiers at Guwahati on Tuesday, 12 February.

Sindhu and Saina will undoubtedly be the biggest attraction with some big names, including last edition's finalists Kidambi Srikanth and HS Prannoy, giving the tournament a miss due to fitness issues.

Finalists in the women’s singles last time around, the duo have been India’s biggest achievers over the past decade, and both enjoyed a successful last season.

Sindhu capped off a year of near-misses, where she took the silver medal at the Commonwealth Games, the Asian Games and the World Championships, in style by winning India’s maiden title at the World Tour Finals in December. Saina reached four finals, and pipped Sindhu to the gold at the Commonwealth Games.

Saina had the last laugh at the 2018 Nationals too, where she got the better of her younger rival in the title clash, and another summit meeting is on the cards as the celebrated shuttlers look to out-do each other ahead of next month’s All England Championships.

Defending champion Saina, who has made a bright start to the new BWF season with a title triumph at the Indonesia Masters, will be hoping to land her fourth Nationals crown, while Sindhu will be seeking to lift the trophy for the third time.

Tournament rules allow the top eight players, ranked below 50 in the BWF World Rankings in both the women’s and men’s singles as on 18 January, to start directly from the pre-quarterfinals, once the Super Draw is completed on 14 February.

Any vacant slots are filled by top-ranked players according to the BAI rankings.

Besides Sindhu and Saina, Shriyanshi Pardeshi, Ashmita Chaliha, Kanika Kanwal, Aruna Prabhudesai, Sai Uttejutha Rao and Aakarshi Kashyap will get direct entries into the pre-quarters.

In the men’s singles, Sameer Verma, B Sai Praneeth and Parupalli Kashyap will be joined by SaarLorLux Open winner Subhankar Dey, Ansal Yadav, Chriag Sen, Bodhit Joshi and Kartik Jindal in the last-16.

The younger players in the men’s draw will benefit due to the withdrawal of Prannoy and Srikanth.

Kidambi Srikanth (left) and HS Prannoy (right), India’s top-ranked men’s singles players, are missing the Nationals due to fitness issues.
Kidambi Srikanth (left) and HS Prannoy (right), India’s top-ranked men’s singles players, are missing the Nationals due to fitness issues.
(Photo: PTI)

While Prannoy is recovering from a breathing problem triggered by an astroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and plans to go to Boston, USA to treat the problem after the All England, Srikanth too is battling niggles and has decided to skip the event ahead of the All England Championships.

In their absence, a fit-again Sameer, along with former champions Sai Praneeth and Kashyap, will be the top stars in men's singles as the badminton extravaganza returns to Assam's capital after nine years.

Sameer, who won three titles last year and ended his season on a high by qualifying for the BWF World Tour Finals, will look to win the title for the second time, while Praneeth and Kashyap too will be in the reckoning.

One shuttler to look out for is 18-year-old Lakshya Sen, who had reached the semi-finals last time. A bundle of talent, Lakshya has won a gold medal in the Junior Asian Championship and bronze at the World Junior Championship besides winning the TATA Open last year.

In doubles, the top 4 teams within top 50 will be placed in the quarter-finals. However, it will an open field with doubles stars Satwiksairaj Rankireddy (injured), N Sikki Reddy and B Sumeeth Reddy (who are getting married) and Ashwini Ponnappa (not playing with any other partner) all missing the event.

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