2019 Hong Kong Open: Indian shuttlers stare at a difficult task
Indian shuttler K Srikanth has been handed the toughest test of all in the draw for the Hong Kong Open.
His first round opponent on Wednesday will be Japan's Kento Momota, the world number one who has been in irresistible form this season.
The statistics don't look good for the Indian challenger against the current world number one.
Momota has won an incredible ten titles on the BWF Tour this year and Srikanth's record against him is not a good one: the Japanese star leads 12-3 in their head-to-head.
Indeed, Srikanth has not managed to defeat Momota since the Indian Open way back in 2015.
Praneeth will open his competition against world number four Shi Yu Qi of China.
Some encouragement for the Indian though is his performance the last time they met at the Swiss Open earlier this year.
Praneeth eventually succumbed to defeat, but took Shi to three fiercely fought games.
Can Sindhu succeed?
It's been a strange season so far for PV Sindhu.
Her crowning moment came at the World Championships in August, when she became the first Indian to win the world title. However, since that triumph, the Hyderabad shuttler has found it difficult to build on her performance.
The Rio 2016 silver medallist has only reached the quarter final stage once - at the French Open - since she became world champion, falling to a succession of first or second round exits.
At the Hong Kong event, Sindhu will begin her campaign against world number 19 Kim Ga Eun of South Korea, with a possible quarterfinal clash against second seed Akane Yamaguchi of Japan looming.
While Sindhu enjoys a superior head-to-head (10-6) against Yamaguchi, the Japanese shuttler has been on the winning side on both occasions that these shuttlers have faced each other this season.
Nehwal in action
Saina Nehwal has endured a difficult year.
Amid mostly disappointing results, her best showing came at the start of the season, when she managed a finals appearance at the 2019 Malaysia Masters and then won the 2019 Indonesia Masters - a competition that saw the reigning Olympic champion Carolina Marin pull out of the final with an ankle injury.
The 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist is against Chinese Cai Yan Yan in the opening round, with Canadian Michelle Li, and South Korea’s An Se Young, the latest sensation on the BWF tour, her possible opponents before the semifinals.
While the singles draw looks testing for the Indians, their men’s doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty will look to use the Hong Kong Open as another opportunity to get one past ‘The Minions’ Kevin Sukamuljo and Marcus Gideon of Indonesia.
But before they line up for a possible title-decider against the world number one pair, the Indians might also have to wade past China's Li Jun Hui and Liu Yu Chen, and the world number two pair of Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan of Indonesia.
Where can I watch the 2019 Hong Kong Open?
The coverage of the 2019 Hong Kong Open will begin from the quarterfinal stage of the competition on Friday, November 15 on the Star Sports Network.
The action will begin at 9:30 AM and will also be available on Hotstar.