Guangzhou: PV Sindhu's bid to end the season with a gold will be a tough one while debutante Sameer Verma too will need to produce his absolute best to make the knockout stage when the BWF World Tour Finals begins here Wednesday.
Sindhu has been the most impressive among the Indian shuttlers as she claimed silver medals at all the major events -- Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and World Championship -- besides finishing runners-up at the India Open and Thailand Open.
On Wednesday, the 23-year-old from Hyderabad, who had finished runners-up in the last edition at Dubai, will begin her quest to put a golden touch to her silver-filled cabinet.
But the road to the women's singles title will be a stiff one, considering she has been clubbed in what can be called a 'group of death', which includes world no 1 and her nemesis Tai Tzu Ying, Japan's world no 2 and defending champion Akane Yamaguchi and her India Open conqueror Beiwen Zhang of USA.
Only eight top players compete in the prestigious season-ending event and the top two from each group will qualify for the semifinals, after which a knockout draw will be conducted.
Sindhu, who will be making her third successive appearance at the tournament, have a 9-4 head-to-head record against Yamaguchi but she has lost four times to the Japanese in five meetings this season.
The 23-year-old from Hyderabad also have found the going tough against Asian Games Champion Tai Tzu Ying, who has beaten her in all their last six encounters. The last time Sindhu defeated Tzu Ying was at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Against Zhang, Sindhu has a 3-3 head-to-head record but the Indian has lost twice in the last three meetings, which included a final defeat at the India Open World Tour Super 500 tournament in New Delhi.
Sindhu has exuded confidence ahead of the tournament, saying she would be in top form after getting enough time to put in the hard yards.
Asked if she would be in better form this time, Sindhu had told PTI: "Ya, I have enough time to prepare this time.
"I hope I do well in this tournament. I am confident of giving my best. It is one of the biggest tournaments with all the top players and it will be tough but I really want to win it," added the Indian, who had skipped the Syed Modi International to prepare for the USD 1,500,000 event.
In men's singles, Sameer, who defended his title at the Syed Modi International last month to qualify for the year-ending event at the last moment, has been put alongside Japanese world number 1 Kento Momota, Indonesia's Tommy Sugiarto and Thailand's Kantaphon Wangcharoen.
Sameer, who is the second Indian men's player after K Srikanth to qualify for the tournament, has a 1-1 head-to-head record against both Sugiarto and Wangcharoen but the Indian still will have to put his best to avoid any hiccups.
The 24-year-old's main worry will be Momota, whom he has defeated en route to his Swiss Open title but the Japanese has emerged as a indomitable force ever since.
Saina Nehwal has represented India at the prestigious tournament -- earlier known as Super Series Final -- seven times, reaching the finals at the 2011 edition.
The Indian mixed doubles pair of Jwala Gutta and V Diju also had finished runners-up at the 2009 edition....