Around this time last year, PV Sindhu qualified for her maiden Dubai World Superseries Finals at the end of a highly successful 2016. Having won a silver at the Rio Olympics, Sindhu went on to win the China Open before losing in the final of the Hong Kong Open.
Her career has gone into overdrive since then. Besides a silver medal at the World Championships, she also won the India Open and Korea Open this year. Only World No.1 Tai Tzu Ying has won more Superseries titles than Sindhu this year.
However, Sindhu will not have to worry about facing Tai in Dubai till the semis at the earliest. Sindhu has been grouped with Akane Yamaguchi, He Bingjiao and Sayaka Sato. The other group includes Tai, Sung Ji Hyun, Ratchanok Intanon and Chen Yufei.
How good has Sindhu been this year?
Win-loss record: 40-12
Sindhu has already won 40 matches this year and has been a part of three Superseries finals. Incidentally, she had also won 40 matches before the Dubai Finals last year, where she lost in the semis to Sung Ji Hyun.
Her Worlds final against Nozomi Okuhara was arguably the match of the year. Now, with both the world champion Okuhara and Olympic champion Carolina Marin missing the Dubai event with injuries, Sindhu starts as one of the pre-tournament favourites.
How have her opponents fared this year?
Win-loss record: 50-14
Head-to-head vs. Sindhu: 2-4
Even though Tai, Sindhu and Okuhara have all won major tournaments this year, Yamaguchi has arguably been the most consistent. Her 50 wins this year are the most for any player in the singles category.
Yamaguchi and Sindhu faced each other in the penultimate Superseries event of the year in Hong Kong, where Sindhu won in straight games.
Sindhu has won four of her last five matches against Yamaguchi and it would be interesting to see if Yamaguchi has enough left in the tank for one last big effort following a demanding season.
Win-loss record: 23-14
Head-to-head vs. Sindhu: 5-4
Chinese players won the women's singles title at the Superseries Finals for four years in a row between 2010 and 2013. However, China failed to win a single women's singles Superseries title in 2017.
Still, 20-year old He and 19-year old Chen will look to punch above their rankings and show that China remain a force to be reckoned with. As one of two left-handers in the top 10 in the women's singles rankings (the other being Marin), He presents a different challenge with her smart use of angles and deception.
Win-loss record: 16-15
Head-to-head vs. Sindhu: 1-2
Sato only qualified for the tournament after Marin's withdrawal. The vastly experienced Sato is a crafty player and won the Indonesia Open this year. While Yamaguchi and Okuhara have made the headlines more recently, Sato has been on the circuit longer and is a more aggressive player.
Sindhu has won both her matches against Sato this year and will be confident of completing a hat-trick of wins against a player who has a reputation of being wildly inconsistent unlike her younger countrywomen.