With just over a month to go for the 2022 Commonwealth Games, Indian badminton players will look build some winning momentum at the Malaysia Open Super 750 tournament starting in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday.
PV Sindhu, India's only seeded singles player, will aim to recover from a first-round exit at the Indonesia Open while HS Prannoy will eye another consistent show after reaching the semis of the same Super 1000 event two weeks back.
Both Lakshya Sen and Kidambi Srikanth have withdrawn from the tournament but the world No 8 pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty will make their return after missing the Indonesian leg due to fitness concerns while Saina Nehwal and Parupalli Kashyap will also make their comeback from injury.
Here's a look at the draws and first-round matches for Indian players.
Sindhu, going through a rough patch at bigger events, has another tricky draw in Malaysia. She begins her campaign against the formidable Pornpawee Chochuwong of Thailand.
While seventh seed Sindhu enjoys a 5-3 head-to-head count against Chochuwong, she has also lost to the Thai world No 10 three times in their last five meetings and this could turn out to be another daunting opener.
Sindhu went down to China's world No 9 He Bing Jiao in the first round at the Indonesia Open Super 1000 earlier this month and will want to put that defeat behind her. If she can cross the opening hurdle, she will play the winner of Phittayaporn Chaiwan and Fitriani Fitriani. But the big threat for her is second seed and Indonesia Open winner, Tai Tzu Ying, who is the other seed in her quarter.
Saina Nehwal is also in the same half of the draw and will open against USA's Iris Wang, whom she has a positive record against. A win will put her face-to-face with Japanese sixth seed Nozomi Okuhara, a former world champion. Saina had skipped the Indonesia leg to manage her workload and will look to put up a good show against Wang, whom she had defeated in three games the only time they met last year at the Orleans Masters.
With Sen and Srikanth out, all eyes will be on Prannoy for another consistent run. He will begin his campaign against Malaysian veteran Daren Liew, who had defeated him at the Thailand Open in May this year. But he has a positive 6-4 record against him.
The world no. 23 has been on a consistent run this year, with a pivotal performance in the Thomas Cup and the superb semis run in Jakarta. He will look to build on his momentum but has a tough draw with a potential second-round clash against fourth seed Chou Tien Chen.
The other two Indians in the draw have challenging openers against higher-ranked Indonesians. B Sai Praneeth will be up against sixth seeded Indonesian, Anthony Sinisuka Ginting, while Sameer Verma takes on another Indonesian star, Jonatan Christie, seeded seventh.
Parupalli Kashyap, returning after recovering from an injury, will meet Korea's Heo Kwang Hee in the opening round who he has beaten the one time they have played before, back in 2017.
The seventh seeded pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty will open against Malaysia's Man Wei Chong and Kai Wun Tee, in what is the pair's first meeting. It will be an important test for the youngsters given the long layoff after their heroics in the Thomas Cup. They have gotten a relatively good draw, with no seeded opponents till the semifinals, should they reach that stage.
In women's doubles, veterans Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy will start their campaign against sixth seeds Nami Matsuyama and Chiharu Shida while Ashwini Bhat K and Shikha Gautam and Haritha Harinarayanan will be up against fifth seeds Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara. Haritha Manazhiyil Harinarayanan and Ashna Roy will play Jeong Na Eun and Kim Hye Jeong in the opener.
In mixed doubles, Ashwini Ponnappa and B Sumeeth Reddy, who are also part of India's Commonwealth Games squad, will take on the Netherland's Robin Tabeling and Selena Piek while Venkat Gaurav Prasad and Juhi Dewangan will square off against Korea's Kim Won Ho and Jeong Na Eun.