INDIA OPEN 2011 Preview – Best of the rest?

The first edition of the new India Open Super Series starts off on the wrong foot, without a Chinese delegation but other shuttlers – indubitably including Saina Nehwal – will […]

The first edition of the new India Open Super Series starts off on the wrong foot, without a Chinese delegation but other shuttlers – indubitably including Saina Nehwal – will get the chance to shine.

By Elm Vandevorst, Badzine Correspondent.  Photos: Badmintonphoto

The India Open replaces the Swiss Open as the 4th tournament on the Super Series circuit and is guaranteed to be on the calendar for at least the next three years. China’s aces are otherwise occupied, with the team’s focus on the Asian Championships held in their own country between the 19th and the 24th of April. However the absent are always in the wrong, which will give some other shuttlers a chance to shine.  In addition to defending champion Saina Nehwal (pictured), some other local heroes can clinch a Super Series title.

Women’s Singles: Saina’s fifth or Tine’s eighth

As the India Open was still a Grand Prix Gold event last year, the seeding list wasn’t that impressive. Saina Nehwal was one of the big names who did decide to participate and had few problems winning the title.

Although the new status of the India Open has lured better players to the Siri Fort Indoor Sports Complex, Nehwal is still the strong favourite, certainly after claiming the Swiss Open last month. Winning three Super Series crowns last year, she had to skip some tournaments at the beginning of the year due to an ankle injury.  Her coach Pullela Gopichand is confident his protégée can go all the way again, however.

“Saina is the top seed in the tournament and therefore favourite to win the title. She is fit and high on confidence after her victory in the Swiss Open,” explained Gopichand.  “Her ligament injury has healed, but she is putting on the straps as a precaution.'”

The Indian hope will face Ai Goto in her first match and will meet either Maria Febe Kusumastuti or Gu Juan in the second if all goes according to plan.

There are some other young shuttlers around who are very eager to win the Indian Open such as third seeded Korean Bae Youn Joo and Thai teenagers Ratchanok Intanon and Porntip Buranaprasertsuk, who was runner-up in Australia last week. Also, more experienced athletes such as Eriko Hirose and second seeded Tine Baun, who’s aiming for her eight Super Series title, will be stiff competition for Nehwal.

Early round women’s singles matches of note:
Yip Pui Yin (HKG) [4] vs Aditi Mutatkar (IND)
Gu Juan (SIN) vs Maria Febe Kusumastuti (INA)
Salakjit Ponsana (THA) [8] vs Sayaka Sato (JPN) (probable 2nd round)

Men’s Singles: Top seeds vs. local favourites

World number one Lee Chong Wei is always the favourite, especially if his arch-rival Lin Dan isn’t participating.  Lee is now going for yet another Super Series win after his victory at the All England in March. Just like his main contenders – who should be Indonesian veteran Taufik Hidayat, Denmark’s Peter Gade and fourth seeded Boonsak Ponsana – the Malaysian star must probably overcome one or more local players somewhere in the tournament. Lee Chong Wei is up against Ajay Jayaram in his first round match, while Ponsana meets last year’s runner-up R.M.V. Gurusai Datt (pictured). Hidayat has to await the outcome of the qualifications and might also face one of India’s most promising talents such as Sai Praneeth or H.S. Prannoy. After that opener, Commonwealth Games bronze medalist Parupalli Kashyap is likely to be his next adversary in line.

Peter Gade, still Denmark’s best, is working hard to get back on track as he explained on his Facebook account: “The last three weeks have been very good and right now it’s all about the heavy practice, physical training and working on some new tactical and technical parts into my game. So far, so good. Next up is the India Open.”

Gade’s first test will be a match-up against Kazushi Yamada from Japan, who surprised all at the All England by reaching the quarter-finals with back-to-back wins over Taufik and Wang Zhengming.

First round men’s singles matches of note:
Lee Hyun Il (KOR) vs Dionysius Hayom Rumbaka (INA)
Hu Yun (HKG) [8] vs Alamsyah Yunus (INA)
Peter Gade (DEN) [3] vs Kazushi Yamada (JPN)
Park Sung Hwan (KOR) [6] vs. Arvind Bhat (IND)

Women’s Doubles: Japan, the new China?

While China has been dominating the women’s doubles in the past years, the Japanese women are trying hard to close the gap with their Asian rivals.  In India, they will not have the chance to compete against the Chinese and competition has to come from upcoming powerhouse Thailand with Duanganong Aroonkesorn / Kunchala Voravichitchaikul or titleholders Sari Shinta Mulia / Yao Lei from Singapore, with Swiss Open finalists Kim/Jung leading an under-strength Korean challenge.  Still the biggest opposition is likely to be between the Japanese pairs. All England runners-up Mizuki Fujii and Reika Kakiiwa (pictured), Australian Open victors Shizuka Matsuo / Mami Naito and current Denmark Open titleholders Miyuki Maeda / Satoko Suetsuna are all contenders for the trophy.

Early round women’s doubles matches of note:
Balan/Sawant (IND) vs Jung/Kim (KOR)
Chin/Wong (MAS) vs Gutta/Ponappa (IND) [8] (probable 2nd round)
Matsuo/Naito (JPN) [6] vs Jang/Kim (KOR) (probable 2nd round)

Men’s Doubles: Hong Kong Open in mind

In December last year, the unseeded, Indonesian pair Mohammed Ahsan and Bona Septano surprised living legends Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong in the second round of the Hong Kong Open. After a comfortable win in the first game, the Malaysians seemed on track to obtain a place in the quarter-finals, but it was their opponents who took the second and third set.  If Koo and Tan want to take revenge this month, however, they will have to qualify for the final in New Delhi. On the other hand, their loss to World Junior Champions Ow Yao Han / Chooi Kah Ming in the quarter-finals of the Kuala Lumpur Open last week must not have been a boost for their confidence.

Possible opponents Ahsan and Septano are self-assured with fond memories about India after winning the India Grand Prix in December. A few weeks later, they made it to the semis of the Malaysian Open, which make them favourites for the title. If they nevertheless fail to fulfill the expectations their compatriots Alvent Yulianto Chandra / Hendra Aprida Gunawan or Koreans Kim Ki Jung and Kim Sa Rang (pictured) can take the gold medal on finals day.

Early round men’s doubles matches of note:
Endo/Hayakawa (JPN) [7] vs Kim/Kim (KOR) (probable 2nd round)
Sato/Kawamae (JPN) [6] vs Chan/Tan (MAS) (probable 2nd round)

Mixed Doubles: After Australia, now India?

Songphon Anugritayawon and Kunchala Voravichitchaikul (pictured) held an excellent dress rehearsal at the Australian Open, losing only one game throughout the whole tournament.  In India, they may well just meet their challengers from the Australian final, Japan’s Hirokatsu Hashimoto/Mizuki Fujii, again in the semi-finals.

All England runners-up Sudket Prapakamol / Saralee Thoungthongkam, local duo Diju Valiyaeveetil / Jwala Gutta and Indonesians Tantowi Ahmad / Liliyana Natsir must all be disappointed if they fail to qualify for the quarter-finals at this event.

First round mixed doubles matches of note:
Valiyaveetil/Gutta (IND) [6] vs Kim/Jang (KOR)
Sato/Matsuo (JPN) vs Kwon/Kim (KOR)
Widianto/Marissa (INA) vs. Hashimoto/Fujii (JPN)

To download the complete draws for the Yonex-Sunrise India Open Super Series, CLICK HERE

About Elm Vandevorst