It is time for home grown talent to get the lion’s share of the $120,000 prize-fund on offer in the India Grand Prix Gold badminton championship beginning here on Tuesday.
With defending champion P. Kashyap and Saina Nehwal looking to justifying the favourite’s tag in a field sprinkled with a none-too-exciting overseas flavour in the two singles events, an all India-final appears a distinct possibility this Republic Day.
For the first time in any dollar-event held in the country, seven out of the eight men’s seeds are Indians. French No. 1 Brice Leverdez, ranked 35 in the world, is the odd one out.
In the women section, the top two seeds, 2009 champion Saina and 2012 finalist P.V. Sindhu will have to work harder to set up their much-anticipated clash in the final.
This annual event, always held in December each year, was pushed to January this time in order to avoid a clash with the year-ending World Superseries Final. But the new dates this year have not helped the cause of the organisers since the top names opted to rest after two major events this month — Korea Open and Malaysia Open.
Though the organisers have assured better quality of participation in the next edition, the Indians players have no reason to complain.
Kashyap, Ajay Jayaram, R.M.V. Gurusaidatt and Anand Pawar are seeded to be in the semifinals while Leverdez, newly-crowned National champion K. Srikanth, H.S. Prannoy and former National champion Sourabh Verma — seeded five to eight — hold the promise of gate-crashing into the last-four stage.
Ninth seeded Chinese Xue Song, ranked 51 in the world, will be tested by the World’s top-ranked junior and the reigning National junior champion Aditya Joshi. The same quarter of the draw also has Anand Pawar.
The other leading overseas challengers are Israel’s Misha Zilberman and Malaysians Zulfadli Zulkiffli and Iskandar Mularmain Zainuddin, ranked 52nd, 59th and 67th, in that order.
Saina and Sindhu, bronze medallists at the Olympic Games and World championships respectively, can expect to face testing times against Nichaon Jindapon (Thailand) and defending champion Lindaweni Fanetri, ranked 16th and 18th in the world.
The field includes two lower-ranked Chinese girls, Di Suo and Xuan Deng, whose singles world ranking stands at 32nd and 39th respectively.
Di Suo opens her campaign against Arundhati Pantawane, the third strongest singles player in the country. The Chinese girl is drawn to play Fanetri for a place in the last-four stage. Similary, Xuan Deng is scheduled to play Jindapon for a place in the semifinals.
In the doubles, the unseeded ladies’ pair of G. Jwala and Ashwini Ponnappa play the second round against third seeded Malaysians Amelia Alicia Anscelly and Fie Cho Soong, ranked 31st in the world.
In men’s doubles, the weak field gives hope to the second seeded National champion pair of Pranav Chopra and Akshay Dewalkar and the third seeded Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy.
The mixed doubles pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and K. Tarun have been seeded fourth in a field where Indonesian siblings Markis Kido and Pia Zebadiah Bernadeth, ranked ninth, start as the favourite.
The seeds, with world rankings (Indians unless stated): Men: 1. P. Kashyap (20), 2. Ajay Jayaram (22), 3. R.M.V. Gurusaidutt (27), 4. Anand Pawar (32), 5. Brice Levendez (France, 35), 6. K. Srikanth (38), 7. H.S. Prannoy (49), 8. Sourabh Verma (50).
Women: 1. Saina Nehwal (8), 2. P.V. Sindhu (11), 3. Nichaon Jindapon (Tha, 16), 4. Lindaweni Fanetri (Ina, 18), 5. Biliaetrix Manuputty (Ina, 35), 6. Xuan Deng (Chn, 39), 7. Hera Desi (Ina, 38), 8. Di Suo (Chn, 32).