With ace shuttler Saina Nehwal taking a break after a gruelling Uber Cup campaign, the Indian challenge will be led by P.V. Sindhu and K Srikanth at the $2,50,000 Japan Open Super Series which gets underway with the qualifiers in Tokyo on Tuesday.
Olympic bronze-medallist Saina, who was in red-hot form last month as she led India to their maiden bronze medal at the Uber Cup in New Delhi, decided to skip the Japan Open due to fatigue and concentrate on the next two events at Indonesia and Australia later in the month.
In Saina’s absence, Sindhu and young Tanvi Lad will represent India in women’s singles, while Srikanth will spearhead the challenge in the men’s singles.
Sindhu too had an all-win record at the Uber Cup while playing the second singles for India against tough opponents such as Porntip Buranaprasertsuk (World No. 9) and Sayaka Takahashi (World No. 12).
The World No 10 Indian will now take on Xue Yao in her campaign-opener on Wednesday. She had beaten the Chinese at the Indian Super Series in New Delhi last April but she has to be careful as the world no 10 Xue had tasted success against Sindhu during the 2011 China Open.
Fourth seeded Korean Ji Hyun Sung is likely to wait for Sindhu in the next round if she can cross the opening hurdle.
India’s top ranked shuttler, Srikanth, will interestingly open his campaign against Germany’s Marc Zwiebler, whom he had beaten in a thrilling three-game match in Thomas Cup in New Delhi.
However, it will be once again a very difficult road as even if he can cross the first hurdle, he will run into the world number one Lee Chong Wei, against whom he had lost in straight games when India had played Malaysia in the campaign opener in Thomas Cup.
While Parupalli Kashyap, the Commonwealth Games bronze medallist, will have a qualifier as his first round opponent, he is likely to face world no 3 Jan O Jorgensen in his next match.
World No 36 Sourabh Varma will be up against 29th ranked Nan Wei of Hong Kong and if he can get past him, it will be fourth seed Kenichi Tago of Japan standing in his way in the next round.
RMV Gurusaidutt, who had won all his matches playing the third singles in Thomas Cup, will meet Japan’s Takuma Ueda, who had edged out Daren Liew in that thrilling final match of the Thomas Cup final between Japan and Malaysia.
Unless Guru falters in the first round, he is likely to face Yun Hu of Hong Kong, whom he had beaten in Denmark Open last year.
In another women’s singles match, young Tanvi Lad will cross swords with Scotland’s Kirsty Gilmour.
In women’s doubles, Commonwealth Games gold-medallists Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa will face the Japanese combo of Ayane Kurihara and Naru Shinoya.
The Indian pair, which have achieved good results winning the Asian Championship bronze last month before helping India clinch the historic bronze in the Uber Cup, is expected to cross the first hurdle and test its skills against sixth seeds Korean Kyung Eun Jung and Ha Na Kim in the second round.
Ashwini will also pair up with Tarun Kona to take on Germany’s Peter Kaesbauer and Isabel Herttrich in their opening round of the mixed doubles competition.