Will an understandably reluctant Saina Nehwal be persuaded to play the Yonex Syed Modi India Open Grand Prix Gold badminton championship commencing on Wednesday?
Will the strongest non-Chinese in the game have her way and use the week to prepare for the far more significant Korea Open and Malaysia Open scheduled in the first fortnight of January?
The answer to these questions will be known only on Wednesday when the main round matches take place at the Babu Banarsi Das Indoor Stadium here. Saina, the top seed, is due to open her campaign against Chinese Taipei's Pai Hsiao Ma at 2.40 p.m.
Saina, who arrived with coach P. Gopi Chand here, was the main attraction at the opening ceremony on Tuesday evening. However, she was not available to clear doubts over her participation.
It is learnt that Saina, before leaving for the World Super Series Finals in China last week, had indicated to the organisers here of her desire to withdraw. However, her name continued to figure in the draw that was finalised on Monday evening.
Both Saina and the organisers have reasons to justify their insistence. The Grand Prix Gold event here offers a never-before prize-fund of $120,000 and the organisers are understandably keen to have Saina in the draw for the sake of the stake-holders and the spectators alike. Saina, on the other hand, is already committed to play in the Korea Open (January 3-8) at Seoul and Malaysia Open (January 10-15) ahead of Thomas and Uber Cup preliminary Round (Feb.14-19) in Victoria, German Open (Feb. 20-March 4) and the All England Championship (March 6-11) as part of the run-up for the Olympics.
After her gallant performance last week, Saina is obviously keen to stay focussed on the more important events and, in the intervening period, iron out the rough edges of her game.
The Chief National coach maintained that the some of the younger players like B. Sai Praneeth, H.S. Prannoy, K. Srikanth, Saurabh Verma and P. V. Sindhu were “capable of making upsets in this field.”
He said, “The next rung of Indian players needs this kind of competition to test their preparedness.” Meanwhile, India occupied all eight qualifying spots for the main draw of the men's singles, three out of four in the women's singles and all four in the men's doubles.
The qualifiers (Indians unless stated): Men's singles: Akshit Mahajan, Ankush Joshi, Rohit Yadav, Sameer Verma, Vinay Kumar Reddy, Mohit Kamat, K. Srikanth and Gaurav Venkat. Women's singles: Tanvi Lad, Mudra Dhainje, Cheng Chi Ya (Tpe) and Anita Ohlan. Men's doubles: Mohit Kamat & Venkatesh Prasad, Deepak Khatri & Akshit Mahajan, Harinder Malik & Satinder Malik and Prem Singh Chauhan & Ankush Joshi.