Strange as it may sound, out of five titles at stake at the $120,000 Syed Modi International badminton tournament here, Denmark starts as favourite in four events, sparing the ladies singles crown for Olympic silver-medallist P. V. Sindhu.
Hit by the spate of withdrawals, the latest one being G. Jwala and her latest mixed doubles partner Manu Attri, the sheen from the singles events is off. In the three doubles, famed Danish pairs are expected to triumph in fields dotted with a large number of home entries.
The men’s title-race provides a fair chance for defending champion S. Kidambi to retain the crown although World No. 14 Hans-Kristian Vittinghus is the highest-ranked player left in the field after the withdrawal of top seeded Thai Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk.
It will also be a good opportunity to the likes of H. S. Prannoy, Sameer Verma and B. Sai Praneeth to advance deep into the championship. Prannoy, winner of all seven singles matches in the recent Premier Badminton League, is obviously upbeat. He could do well to hog the limelight and join Srikanth in leading the home charge.
In the ladies singles, the field is clearly the weakest ever and Sindhu is not expected to drop even a game all the way to the title. After all, the strongest player in the field, behind World No. 6 Sindhu, is Spain’s Beatriz Corrales. After World and Olympic champion Carolina Marin, Corrales is the strongest Spanish lady player, ranked 23.
It is difficult to look beyond the Danes in doubles. World No. 4 Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen, the two-time All England champions and London Olympics silver medallists, head the seedings, followed by teammates Mathias Christiansen and David Daugaard. Here, the duo of Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy, seeded three, has a good chance to prove their growing worth.
The ladies World No. 2 pair of Kamilla Rytter Juhl and Christinna Pedersen – silver medallists at the 2016 Rio Olympics – will be hard to stop. Christinna could well return with the mixed doubles title, as well, in the company of Joachim Fischer Nielsen, ranked fourth in the World. Winner of the mixed doubles bronze in the 2012 London Olympics, this pair could well run into Sumeeth Reddy and Ashwini Ponnappa in the quarterfinals. The progress of second seeds Pranaav Chopra and Sikki Reddy will be watched with keen interest. Had Jwala not withdrawn, the Chopra-Sikki combination would have faced Jwala and Manu Attri in the first round.
Over all, the week could well see smooth sailing for Sindhu, testing times for Srikanth and a high probability of the Danish contingent leaving with majority of tiles.
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