When Kidambi Srikanth takes to court in the Dubai World Superseries Finals starting on Wednesday, he will be bidding to become only the second Indian after Saina Nehwal to reach the singles final at the year-ending event.
Srikanth has been drawn in the same group as World Champion and world no.1 Viktor Axelsen, Shi Yuqi (8) and Chou Tien Chen (7). The top two finishers from the group will progress to the semis.
The other group has three-time winner Lee Chong Wei, NG Ka Long Angus and Son Wan Ho. It will have only three players following Olympic Champion Chen Long's last-minute withdrawal.
What has Srikanth done this year?
Win-loss record: 37-8
Srikanth's four Superseries titles are the most for anybody in the men's singles category this year. He won the Superseries in Indonesia, Australia, Denmark and France, and finished runner-up at the Singapore Open, where he lost to compatriot B Sai Praneeth. However, he lost in the quarterfinals of the World Championships to Son Wan Ho.
The Dubai Finals are the second biggest event on the calendar this year after the Worlds and Srikanth will want to improve on his 2014 display, where he lost to eventual champion Chen in the semis in what was his maiden appearance at the tournament.
Viktor Axelsen | Win-loss record: 32-9 | Head-to-head vs. Srikanth: 3-3
Srikanth will face defending champion Axelsen in his opening match on Wednesday. After winning bronze at the Rio Olympics last year, Axelsen won the World Championships this year, defeating Chen and Lin Dan in the semis and final respectively. He also won the India Open and Japan Open Superseries titles this year.
Axelsen and Srikanth have already faced each other three times this year, with the Dane winning the first two times in straight games before Srikanth defeated Axelsen in his home Superseries event. Both the players are well rested, having skipped the Hong Kong Open. The winner of this match will most likely be the group winner.
Shi Yuqi | Win-loss record: 32-14 | Head-to-head vs. Srikanth: 0-3
Shi's best display came at the All England Open this year, where he lost to Lee in the final after defeating Lin in the semis. However, he has lost all his three matches against Srikanth this year and has only managed to win one game against the Indian in his career.
Srikanth's aggressive shotmaking has often meant that the Chinese player has had to play out of his comfort zone, which involves playing at a more sedate pace. Srikanth will start as the overwhelming favourite in this clash.
Chou Tien Chen | Win-loss record: 35-17 | Head-to-head vs. Srikanth: 1-1
Chou reached the semis of the All England Open and finished runner-up at the India Open. But after a promising start to the season, he failed to reach another Superseries final in 2017.
An extremely patient player who likes to engage in long rallies and wear his opponents down gradually, Chou has often struggled against attacking players. He has not faced Srikanth in the last two years and his style will provide a neat counterpoint to Srikanth's aggressive instincts.