New Delhi: Olympic medallists Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu will be the cynosure of all eyes when the seventh India Super Series badminton tournament gets underway with the qualifiers on Tuesday.
London 2012 bronze-medallist Saina will be one of the favourites at the Indian Super Series, an event she won two years ago to achieve the world no.1 ranking.
"Delhi has always been special to me. I won the Commonwealth Games gold here and then won the Indian Open in 2015 and became the world No.1. So everything has been special for me. It is great to play in front of home crowd," said the current world No.8, who has been on a comeback trail after recovering from a knee injury.
"The competition has become tougher. But I have been playing well, even at All England, the match that I lost was 50-50. So all I can say is I will give my best and hope to do well," she added.
Rio Olympics silver-medallist Sindhu, who has been in rampaging form ever since her Olympic high, will also look to continue her good run at the Sri Fort Sports complex.
"I am looking forward to the event. It will be an exciting week, the competition is tough and I will give my best," the world No.5 said.
Saina and Sindhu had crashed out of the All England Championship after losing in the quarterfinals and the duo would be eyeing better results this week.
They are likely to bump into each other in the quarterfinals on Friday, if they manage to topple their opponents in the first two rounds.
Sindhu will open her campaign against a qualifier after her opponent – Singapore's Xiaoyu Liang – withdrew, while Saina will take on Chinese Taipei's Chia Hsin Lee in the opening round.
Sindhu, seeded third, is likely to face Japan's Saena Kawakami in the second round, while Saina will probably take on Thailand's Pornpawee Chochuwong, an opponent she had beaten in the finals of the Malaysia Masters in January.
The two have met just once in an international competition – at the 2014 Syed Modi International – where Saina had won in straight games.
Saina and Sindhu were on collision course for a place in the semi-finals of the Hong Kong Open last year before the senior pro suffered a loss.
They had played against each other in the Premier Badminton League with Sindhu having an upper-hand this year.
Among others in women's singles, Rituparna Das will square off against Chinese Taipei's Chiang Mei Hui and Tanvi Lad will have an uphill task against seventh seed Nozomi Okuhara of Japan.
Unheralded Sri Krishna Priya Kudaravalli will face second seed Korean Sung Ji Hyun in her opening match.
In men's singles, K Srikanth will look to repeat the performance which got him the 2015 edition title.
"India Open is special as I have won the title in 2015. So there are good memories but it will be a new event with tougher competition. I am just confident of doing well after my recent outing in Germany and All England. I hope to win this title and seal my place at the World championship," said Srikanth, who has slipped to World No. 31 following an injury lay-off.
Also in fray will be Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold runners-up B Sai Praneeth, who will face a qualifier in the first match, while Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold champion Sameer Verma will lock horns with fourth-seeded Korean Son Wan Ho.
Ajay Jayaram will have to get past third seed and Olympic bronze-medallist Viktor Axelsen of Denmark.
Former Swiss Open champion H S Prannoy, who had hurt his knee at Basel this year, will face Malaysia's Zulfadli Zulkiffli in the first round.
In men's doubles, India's top pair of Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy will face Japan's Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi, while seventh seeds Pranaav Jerry Chopra and N Sikki Reddy will face the Indonesian combo of Hafiz Faizal and Shela Devi Aulia....