German Open 2022: Sindhu, Srikanth and Lakshya Sen to spearhead event
As the European leg begins with the German Open, Indian badminton stars Sindhu, Saina, Srikanth and Lakshya Sen will have tricky challenges to conquer.
Two-time Olympic medallist PV Sindhu and world championship medal-winners Kidambi Srikanth and Lakshya Sen will be the top Indian contenders at the German Open Super 300 badminton tournament starting here on Tuesday.
While Sindhu eased to a title win at Syed Modi International and Lakshya grabbed his maiden Super 500 trophy at Indian Open in January, Srikanth saw the momentum of the World Championships fizzle out a bit after withdrawing from the Delhi due to COVID-19 infection.
The Lucknow title was Sindhu's first since the World Championship gold in 2019 and it must have eased the pressure a bit but the Indian is well aware that she will have to hit top gear during the European leg in a hectic year which also has big-ticket events such as the Commonwealth Games and Asian Games.
Sindhu, seeded seventh, will open her campaign against Thailand's World No. 11 Busanan Ongbamrungphan this week. A win will bring her face-to-face with Denmark's Mia Blichfeldt and another possible victory can see her clash with top seed and Olympic silver-medallist Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei.
World silver-medallist Lakshya too has been in fine form, making good use of the opportunities that came his way as he first claimed the bronze at Huelva, Spain, and then lifted the India Open title in January. He was also the only bright spot during India's campaign at Asia Team Championships In Malaysia last month. Lakshya will start his campaign against Thailand's Kantaphon Wangcharoen. If the 20-year-old from Almora puts it past the Thai, he is likely to meet fourth seed Anthony Sinisuka Ginting of Indonesia.
Srikanth, on the other hand, endured a frustrating phase after being forced out of the events in India due to COVID-19. The 29-year-old, however, started training as soon as he recovered and is eager to find his rhythm. "This is an important year and I just want to train well and play to the best of my ability," Srikanth said. The eighth-seeded Indian will face France's Brice Leverdez in his campaign opener. A win is likely to pit him against China's Lu Guang Zu in the second round and if Srikanth can cross the hurdle, he is expected to take on top seed and reigning Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen.
It is an important year for HS Prannoy as well as he continues his comeback after recovering from lingering side-effects of COVID-19. A former top 10 player, Prannoy reached three back-to-back quarterfinals -- the World Championship, India Open, and Syed Modi International -- and would look to carry the momentum when he faces seventh-seeded Ng Ka Long Angus in his opening round here.
London Olympics bronze-medallist Saina Nehwal, who has been troubled by injuries and illness, will also be in action after losing early at India Open and pulling out of the Lucknow event in January. The two-time Commonwealth Games gold medallist will open against Singapore's Yeo Jia Min. Having regained fitness after laying low due to a calf injury, former commonwealth games champion Parupalli Kashyap too will be back in action, taking on Thailand's young sensation Kunlavut Vitidsarn.
Commonwealth Games silver-medallists Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, who notched up their maiden Super 500 title at India Open, will open against China's Liu Yu Chen and Ou Xuan Yi, while Dhruv Kapila and MR Arjun will clash with sixth seeds Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi from Singapore. In women's doubles, Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy will square off against fifth seeds Nami Matsuyama and Chiharu Shida of Japan, while Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand Pullela will take on Netherlands' Debora Jille and Cheryl Seinen.
In mixed doubles, India will be represented by the pairings of Ishaan Bhatnagar and Tanisha Crasto, and Sai Pratheek K and N Sikki Reddy.