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Saina, Srikanth eye an encore at India Open


Defending champions Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth will look to iron out the chinks in their armour when they take on a stellar field in the women’s and men’s singles events respectively at the India Open Super Series, starting with the qualifiers here tomorrow.

Olympic bronze medallist Saina, who broke her India Open jinx last year after a series of early exits in the previous editions, will enter the tournament after a quarterfinal and semifinal finish at the All England and Swiss Open, respectively.

Plagued by an ankle injury that she suffered last year, Saina was forced to skip a few tournaments early in this year and she will be eager to reach her peak ahead of the Rio Olympics in August.

The 26-year-old, who skipped today’s press conference to receive the Padma Bhushan award from the President of India, Pranab Mukherjee at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, will take on a qualifier in the opening round at the Siri Fort Complex.

Srikanth, on the other hand, blown hot and cold so far in the season. The Indian won the Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold in January but lost in the second round of All England and third round at German Open last month.

“I know I have lost a few matches but I am satisfied with my game. I am confident of defending my title. I have been playing well. I won the Syed Modi and also reached the semifinals at Malaysia Masters,” Srikanth told PTI.

“There is always pressure when you enter a tournament as a defending champion but it is happening in India and I hope the crowd will come and support us and it will boost us,” said the 23-year-old, who will meet Chinese seventh seed Tian Houwei in the first round.

The field will be led by two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan and former world no. 1 Lee Chong Wei.

Among other Indians, P V Sindhu will start her campaign in the main draw against Jeanine Cicognini on Wednesday after Carolina Marin pulled out.

“I know I haven’t been performing well. But I am fit and there is nothing wrong in my game. I hope this tournament helps me to regain my form. I couldn’t play last year due to a foot injury, so I am looking forward to the event,” Sindhu said.

In red-hot form after his Swiss Open win last week, H S Prannoy, who is running for the Olympic qualification, will also be one of the contenders who will be a tough nut to crack as he starts his campaign against Thailand’s Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk in the men’s singles event of the USD 300,000 tournament.

Ajay Jayaram, too, will have to get some big wins under his belt if he has to qualify for the Rio Games. The Indian will take on Germany’s Marc Zwiebler in the opening round.

With P Kashyap pulling out as he is still recovering from a knee injury, B Sai Praneeth will be entering the main draw. The Indian had beaten Lee Chong Wei in the opening round of the All England championship.

“I won’t be participating at the India Open owing to the injury sustained at the German Open. Continuing to train harder,” he said.

In women’s doubles, Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa will square off against Korea’s Go Ah Ra and Yoo Hae Won, while Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy will face sixth seeds China’s Liu Xiaolong and Qiu Zihan.

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