P V Sindhu will look to recover from her unexpected semifinal loss at the India Open and end her title drought at the Syed Modi International in Lucknow beginning Tuesday, even as the tournament lost a lot of sheen following the withdrawal of top players like Lakshya Sen and Kidambi Srikanth. (More Badminton News)
The 26-year-old Sindhu, a two-time Olympic medallist, was well on course to win her first title since the 2019 World Championship triumph last week before left-hander Supanida Katethong of Thailand shattered her hopes with a three-game win at the India Open.
Sindhu, who had finished runner-up at Swiss Open and World Tour Finals last year, will hope to turn things around this week when she begins her campaign against compatriot Tanya Hemanth.
The former champion will be itching to settle her scores against Supanida, whom she is likely to face again at the semifinals at the Babu Banarasi Das Indoor Stadium here.
Second seeded Canadian Michelle Li, a 2014 Commonwealth Games gold medallist, Polish eighth seed Jordan Hart and second seed Iris Wang of USA also pulled out of the event.
The biggest name to miss the tournament is world championship bronze medallist Lakshya Sen, who pulled out of the tournament due to exhaustion after claiming his maiden Super 500 crown at India Open on Sunday.
Men's doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty too decided to give the Super 300 tournament a miss after claiming their maiden India Open title.
World Championships silver medallist and top seed Kidambi Srikanth also will not compete this week as he is undergoing seven-day mandatory quarantine after withdrawing from the main draw last week following a COVID-19 positive result.
Third seed B Sai Praneeth, who had pulled out of India Open after testing positive to the virus, will also be missing in action this week, while Ashwini Ponnappa and Manu Attri are yet to recover from the infection and will miss the tournament.
Ashwini is part of the top seeded women's doubles pairing, while Manu and B Sumeeth Reddy are seeded third in the men's doubles event.
Yet to achieve her full fitness, London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal, seeded fourth, too withdrew from the event. She had lost in the second round in India Open last week.
On a comeback trail, former top-10 player H S Prannoy gave a good account of himself before being stopped by 20-year-old Sen in the quarterfinals last week.
Fifth seed Prannoy will be India's biggest title hope now as he opens his campaign against Ukraine's Danylo Bosniuk.
There are a host of other Indians in men's singles, such as seventh seed Sourabh Verma, fourth seed Sameer Verma, who he is still recovering from a calf muscle injury, Subhankar Dey and youngsters like Kiran George, Mithun Manjunath and Priyanshu Rajawat.
In women's singles, Aakarshi Kashyap, who had reached the quarterfinals last week, will look to continue her good run when she faces fellow Indian Mugdha Agrey in opening round.
Malvika Bansod and Ashmita Chaliha will be tied in a battle of supremacy in the opening round, while Samiya Imad Farooqui, Ira Sharma and Sri Krishna Priya Kudaravalli will be the other prominent Indians in action.
Fourth seeded MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila will be the top Indian hopeful in the men's doubles.