Saina, Sindhu face tricky draw; Srikanth best bet for deep run


Even though Prakash Padukone and Pullela Gopichand's best displays came at the All England Open, the current crop of Indian players have generally reserved their best for the World Championships and the Olympics. While Saina Nehwal lost a tough three-game final against Carolina Marin in 2015, PV Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth, HS Prannoy and B Sai Praneeth have never progressed beyond the last eight.

Out of the five Indians in the main draw of the tournament, Srikanth has the best chance of progressing to the last four. Here's a look at India's prospects at the tournament.

PV Sindhu

Sindhu's draw at this year's tournament is similar to her draw at the Rio Olympics, where she ran into one heavyweight after the other. After what should be a straightforward match against Pornpawee Chochuwong in the opening round, Sindhu is most likely to run into Beiwen Zhang, Nozomi Okuhara and Carolina Marin/Akane Yamaguchi in the second round, quarterfinal and semifinal respectively.

While Sindhu lost in the final of the Olympics and World Championships to Marin and Okuhara respectively, she also lost her last matches against Beiwen and Yamaguchi, both of which came in tournament finals. Sindhu did not look close to her best at the India Open, which was the last tournament she played this year and will have to dig deep if she has to repeat her heroics at the Olympics.

Saina Nehwal

Having made the semis in 2013 and final in 2015, Saina will probably face her biggest challenge in the very first round, against world number one Tai Tzu Ying. Tai has won each of their last seven matches and also demolished Saina 21-9, 21-13 in the final of the Indonesia Masters earlier this year. Tai has also won nine of her 10 matches this year and will start the match as the overwhelming favourite.

Kidambi Srikanth

For a player who won the most men's singles Superseries titles (four) in 2017, Srikanth has struggled a fair bit since the last of those wins. He has won only four of the nine matches since winning the French Open in October. With a fairly easy draw, Srikanth will fancy his chances of making the last four at least, where he's likely to face one of either Lin Dan or Lee Chong Wei. Srikanth has only won one of his seven matches against Lin and Lee but with both those players nearing the end and world no. one Viktor Axelsen missing the tournament with injury, Srikanth's time might be now.

HS Prannoy

Just like Srikanth, Prannoy had his best year on the circuit in 2017 and was a trifle unlucky to not win his maiden Superseries title after blowing open the draw in more than one tournament. He'll run into a familiar nemesis in the opening round in Birmingham though: Chou Tien Chen. Chou has never lost to Prannoy in three career meetings and with Prannoy returning from a painful injury, his lack of match practice might prove to be crucial in this match.

B Sai Praneeth

Before he won the Singapore Open last year, Praneeth made everyone take notice of his talent when he stunned Lee Chong Wei in the first round of the All England Open in 2016. However, his form has been patchy in the last six months and he'll face a tricky opponent in former world no.1 Son Wan Ho in the opening round. Praneeth has failed to win a single game in his three previous matches against Son and it would be a massive upset if he progresses beyond the first round.