India Open: Sindhu prepares to defend title, Axelsen withdraws

The Dane is the only seed to withdraw but his pullout should make things a lot easier for second seed and World No three Kidambi Srikanth.

Since the India Open last year, Viktor Axelsen has become the World champion and P. V. Sindhu collected a World championship silver to go with her two bronze medals.

P. V. Sindhu is back but World No. 1 Victor Axelsen will not be around to defend the singles titles in the $350,000 India Open singles titles here this week.

Axelsen chose to withdraw from the event at the last minute. That gave Shubhankar Dey the place at the top of the draw without having to go through Tuesday’s qualifying rounds. The Dane is the only seed to withdraw but his pullout should make things a lot easier for second seed and World No. three Kidambi Srikanth.

READ: P. V. Sindhu: A satisfying 12 months!

In Axelsen’s absence, another Dane Hans-Kristian Solberg Vittinghus, World No. 10 H.S. Prannoy and Commonwealth champion P. Kashyap will be the main contenders for a place in the quarterfinals from the top-quarter of the draw.

The one who makes it faces a possible semifinal against third seed and last year’s finalist Chou Tien Chen can be expected before the much anticipated title-clash against Srikanth.

For Srikanth, the lung-opener could well be in the quarterfinals against last year’s semifinalist and lanky Dane Anders Antonsen, seeded seven. Last year, the Indian challenge had ended in the quarterfinals with the defeat of Sameer Verma.

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This week, Sameer faces Antonsen in the first round and should he survive the day, the winner of Ajay Jayaram-Tommy Sugiarto match will be up next.

Interestingly, the third-quarter of the draw has all three Chinese, including fourth seed Shi Yuqi. Here, Saurabh Verma starts his campaign against Shi Yuqi.

In contrast, the ladies singles looks fairly straightforward. In the absence of the leading Japanese and Chinese names, the field lacks depth. As a result, it should not come as a surprise if the top four seeds reach the semifinals without much ado.

Sindhu, reeling under last week’s straight-game loss to Saina Nehwal, will be desperate to defend the title despite the presence of Olympic champion Carolina Marin, former world champion Ratchanok Intanon and Saina.

Should the seedings hold and there are no late withdrawals, Sindhu and Intanon should face-off in the first semifinals and await the Marin-Saina clash to decide the other finalist.

Last year, Sindhu scored a 21-16, 22-20 win over Saina in the quarterfinals. But since then, Saina has more than settled the score by posting straight-game victories in the National championship final and in last week’s Indonesia Masters quarterfinals.

Given the intense rivalry between the two Indian ladies, another ‘grudge’ match could well be in the offing on Sunday.

The seedings:

Men:
1. Viktor Axelsen (Denmark, withdrawn)
2. K. Srikanth
3. Chou Tien Chen (Chinese Taipei)
4. Shi Yuqi (Chn)
5. H. S. Prannoy
6. Wang Tzu Wei (Chinese Taipei)
7. Anders Antonsen (Denmark)
8. B. Sai Praneeth

Women:

1. P. V. Sindhu
2. Carolina Marin (Spain)
3. Ratchanok Intanon (Indonesia)
4. Saina Nehwal
5. Beiwen Zhang (USA)
6. Cheung Ngan Yi (Hong Kong)
7. Yip Pui Yin (Hong Kong)
8. Beatriz Corrales (Spain)