With ace shuttler Saina Nehwal giving the tournament a miss, teen sensation P.V. Sindhu and national champion K. Srikanth will spearhead the Indian challenge at the $200,000 Asian Badminton championship which gets underway at Gimcheon, Korea on Monday.
Olympic bronze-medallist, Saina, who won a bronze at the 2010 edition, decided to take rest to focus on the Thomas and Uber Cup next month and it will now come down to Sindhu and Srikanth to keep the tri-colour fluttering.
The 18-year-old Sindhu, who won the Malaysia Open and Macau Open last year, will start her campaign against Cheung Ngan Yi in the women’s singles but she has a tough task ahead as she is likely to meet Japan’s Eriko Hirose next.
If the Indian crosses the hurdle, the World Championship bronze-medallist will fancy avenging her India Open loss to Shixian Wang, the top seed in the tournament.
In men’s singles, it would be an interesting clash between seventh seed K. Srikanth and two-time Olympic champion and five-time world champion, Lin Dan, who is set to play only his second tournament this year after making a comeback at the China Masters Grand Prix Gold in Jiangsu, China last week.
The Chinese, also known as ‘Super Dan’, made a successful return to international badminton as he won the China Masters last week, beating compatriot Houwei Tian in straight games.
Srikanth, who has gained the reputation of a giant killer, had troubled world number one Lee Chong Wei in the semifinals of Singapore Open and he would look to use his experience against the world’s best player.
“I played him two years back in Thailand. So I would be playing him for the second time. I am excited. We all know what a fantastic player he is. He just won the China Masters last week,” Srikanth told PTI.
“I am just looking to enjoy the match. I will just go there and give my 100 per cent. The last match against Lee Chong Wei in Singapore boosted my confidence. I am playing well. In that match, I made a few mistakes only in the end so I ll try not to repeat those,” added Srikanth, who will be leaving for Korea along with the team, tonight.
Among other Indians in fray, Parupalli Kashyap will be up against Malaysia’s Goh Soon Huat, while RMV Gurusaidutt will square off against Phetpradab Khosit of Thailand in another men’s singles match.
In doubles, Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy will take on the Malaysian pair of Low Juan Shen and Heg Nelson Wei Keat, while Akshay Dewalkar and Pranaav Jerry Chopra will clash with Chinese combo of Zhang Wen and Wang Yilv in men’s doubles competition.
Commonwealth Games gold-medallists, Ashwini Ponnappa and Jwala Gutta will face off against Singapore’s Fu Mingtian and Neo Yu Yan Vanessa in the women’s doubles competition of the Continental Championships.