China Open: Saina, Prannoy aim to make Dubai Finals

Champions Saina Nehwal and HS Prannoy with coach Pullela Gopichand (Image credit-Twitter)

FUZHOU (China): Two of India’s best shuttlers Saina Nehwal and HS Prannoy will aim to seal their berth at the Dubai Super Series Finals, with a better performance at the $700,000 China Open Super Series Premier beginning on Tuesday.

Both the world no. 11 were just recently crowned the National champions last week. While Saina beat the ever improving PV Sindhu in an intense battle of 54 minutes to clinch her third National Championship title, Prannoy oversaw record -breaker Kidambi Srikanth to win his maiden national title at the 82nd edition of the event at Nagpur.

As per the norms, only the top eight ranked players or pairs in the Super Series rankings after the final Super Series tournament, are eligible to participate in the Dubai Open. Interestingly, both Saina and Prannoy are lingering behind at no. 11 and will have to lift their ante if they are to qualify for the Dubai Super Series Finals. Sindhu and Srikanth’s both of whom are ranked second in the BWF rankings are assured of a qualification in the tournament.

With the calendar year almost coming to an end, only two Super Series events – China Open and Hong Kong Open remain and it will indeed take a herculean task for both the national champions to break into the top eight and qualify for the Dubai Finals.

London Olympics bronze medalists Saina will face USA’s Beiwen Zhang in the opening fixture, while US Open champion Prannoy will open his campaign with a qualifier match. World Championships silver medalist PV Sindhu who will also be participating in the tournament will face Indonesia Open winner, Sayaka Sato of Japan.

The 22-year-old Sindhu also has all the possibility of facing Nozomi Okuhara of Japan, if both of them are able to cross the second round. The Japanese ranked eight, lead 5-4 on head-to- head analysis, with two wins in the last three fixtures over her Indian counterpart.

Meanwhile, Kidambi Srikanth who became the first Indian to win four Super Series Finals in a single calendar year, will give to tournament a miss, to nurse a muscle strain. Sameer Verma, Ajay Jayaram and Indonesia Open champion B Sai Praneeth are among the other top shuttlers who will also not participate in the tournament.

Sourabh Verma, who missed the previous two tournaments due to fitness issues will return to action and take on giant killer Brice Leverdez of France. Commonwealth Games champion Parupalli Kashyap will face China’s Guo Kai in the qualifiers.

In the men’s doubles category, the national champion pair of Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy, face the top-seeded Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo of Indonesia. Another Indian pair Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty will take on fifth-seeded Liu Cheng and Zhang Nan of China.

The women’s doubles will see the National champion pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy cross swords with the Korean combo of Ha Na Baek and Chae Yoo Jung in their opening match.

In the mixed doubles category, the pair of Pranaav Jerry Chopra and N Sikki Reddy, who reached their maiden semi-finals at the Japan Open, will face the fifth-seeded Chinese duo of Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong.

National champions Satwiksairaj and Ashwini will however have to overcome Chinese Taipei’s Lee Jhe-Huei and Wu Ti Jung, in order to make the main draw.

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