B. Sai Praneeth and Sameer Verma can look to create on the good form as they set their sights on winning the Australian Open 2018 to be held at the Quay Centre Olympic Park in Sydney from May 9. Sai was the best-performing Indian shuttler finally week’s New Zealand Open, where he reached the semi-finals.
The World No. 18 will hope to do better yet at the Super 300 tournament in Australia this week. Seeded second, he starts his campaign against the World No. 54 Misha Zilberman. In the quarter-finals, he could come face-to-face with the seventh seeded Lee Cheuk Yiu.
However, the Hong Kong shuttler must keep clear of the fast-rising Lakshya Sen, who took a game title off Lin Dan last week and highly impressed everyone. If Sen can overcome his seeded opponent in his 1st round, he has an opportunity to meet his older compatriot, Sai in the last-eight stage.
In the semi-finals, fifth seeded Tommy Sugiarto looks the most likely candidate to battle the winner of the Sai-Lakshya quarter-final, should it happen.
Former India No. 1 Ajay Jayaram, who is returning from the hamstring injury, too is in exactly the same half the draw and meets Japanese qualifier Riichi Takeshita in the first round. A gain would set him against the New Zealand Open quarter-finalist Niluka Karunaratne.
In another half the draw, three Indians are huddled together. Swiss Open champion Sameer Verma is the fourth seed and assumes New Zealand’s Abhinav Manota in his opener. There could be a blockbuster showdown involving the Verma brothers in the 2nd round, if Sourabh can beat Japan’s World No. 113 Takuma Ueda.
With the withdrawal of the utmost effective seed HS Prannoy, the trail looks pretty open for Sameer to clinch the title. Eighth seeded Daren Liew looks the greatest danger for him second round onwards and Verma is anticipated to overcome that challenge, given how confidently he has been playing this season.
World No. 93 Karan Rajan Rajarajan is the only real other Indian in the men’s singles draw and he faces former World No. 4 Sony Dwi Kuncoro in the first round.
Youngsters in women’s singles draw
India’s women’s singles challenge comprises only three youngsters — Vaishnavi Reddy Jakka, Sai Uttejitha Rao Chukka and Sri Krishna Priya Kudaravalli.
Jakka is the best ranked one of the three at 64th. Former Commonwealth Games gold medallist Michelle Li looms on her in the 2nd round. Chukka has a not too difficult opener as she has drawn Japanese qualifier, Ayumi Mine.
The 66th ranked Kudaravalli assumes the 88th ranked Yulia Yosephin Susanto in Round 1.
Both Jakka and Kudaravalli have now been selected for the prestigious Uber Cup. This tournament can give them the much-needed opportunity to achieve some experience by playing top shuttlers.
India has four teams in men’s doubles — third seeds Manu Attri-Sumeeth Reddy, seventh seeds MR Arjun-Shlok Ramchandran, eighth seeds Francis Alwin-Nandagopal Kidambi and the unseeded Rohan Kapoor-Shivam Sharma.
The national champions managed to get to the quarter-finals in Auckland and would look to continue with that form.
The solitary Indian pair in women’s doubles is that of Meghana Jakkampudi and Poorvisha S Ram. In mixed doubles, Kapoor and Kuhoo Garg have bowed out in the first round whilst the duo of Sharma and Poorvisha reached Round 2.