It has not been an easy season for Saina Nehwal, who announced on Sunday that she would be pulling out of the Premier Badminton League in order to recuperate from the injuries and illness that have taken their toll on her this year.
However, the 29-year old will still be in action at the Syed Modi International in Lucknow this week, hoping to give her home fans some cheer before she heads off to the season-ending BWF Tour Finals in Guangzhou.
Nehwal is seeded third for the tournament, and will begin her campaign against England's Chloe Birch.
The London 2012 bronze medallist is drawn in the bottom half and could possibly line up against the defending champion Han Yue of China in the semi-finals.
The Chinese shuttler registered a comfortable 21-18, 21-8 win over Nehwal in the final a year ago.
Nehwal has suffered a string of first round exits this season - so will we see a reversal of fortunes at the Babu Banarasi Das Indoor Stadium this week?
While the former bronze medallist at the World Championships He Bingjiao is top-ranked in Lucknow and will start as one of the favourites, the reigning Olympic champion Carolina Marin will also be one to watch as she continues her comeback after a serious knee injury that saw her miss a large chunk of the season.
The Spaniard is seeded fourth.
In the men’s half, while the likes of B Sai Praneeth, KSrikanth and Parupalli Kashyap will carry India’s expectations, eyes will also be on the youngster Lakshya Sen, who comes into the competition on the back of an impressive European tour that saw him lift four titles in the past few months.
Sen, the 2018 Youth Olympics silver medallist, has been in fine touch, winning the top honours in Poland, Belgium, the Netherlands and Scotland over the past few months.
However, his real test will lie in Lucknow when he faces France’s Thomas Rouxel in the opening round. If the 18-year-old gets past the Frenchman, he will be up against South Korea’s Son Wan-Ho, who beat the Olympic champion Chen Long en route his title win at the Malaysia Masters in January.
Meanwhile, K Srikanth will seek some quality performances under his belt as he looks to climb up the ladder in the BWF’s Race to Tokyo Rankings before the cut-off date in April next year.
The Guntur shuttler is the sixth-best Indian in the men’s singles rankings with only the top two expected to make the cut for the Tokyo Olympics.
In the doubles segment, while the high-flying pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty will be eager to bag another title this season, the women’s doubles pair of Ashwini Ponappa and N Sikki Reddy will try to go deep into the competition.
The female duo has found it difficult to get past the initial rounds this season with their longer stays coming only at the India Open and Hyderabad Open. With the two back in familiar territory, the Ponappa-Reddy combine will be eager to make the most of the opportunity.
Where can I watch?
The 2019 Syed Modi International Badminton Championships will be live on the Star Sports Network and Hotstar from the semi-final stage on Saturday, November 30 from 2:00 PM onwards.