Indian ace Saina Nehwal faces tough draws on her return to the badminton court after a long COVID-19 hiatus.
At the Yonex Thailand Open, set to be held from January 12 to 17, the London 2012 bronze medallist will go up against world No. 4 Nozomi Okuhara of Japan in the first round. Saina has been drawn against home favourite Ratchanok Intanon, currently world No. 5 and a former world champion, in round 1 of the Toyota Thailand Open, to be held from January 19 to 24.
Current world champion PV Sindhu, meanwhile, has had favourable draws. The Rio 2016 silver medallist will face Denmark shuttler Mia Blichfeldt in the women’s singles first round at the Yonex Thailand Open.
PV Sindhu will face local player Busanan Ongbamrungphan in her first match of the Toyota Thailand Open. The 25-year-old Indian shuttler is seeded sixth in the women’s singles event at both tournaments.
The Badminton World Federation (BWF), on Tuesday, announced the draws for both the Yonex Thailand Open and the Toyota Thailand Open.
In men’s singles, a total of seven Indians are participating.
Former world No. 1 Kidambi Srikanth will battle it out with fellow Indian shuttler Sourabh Verma in the opening round of the Yonex Thailand Open. HS Prannoy will go up against eight seed Lee Zii Jia of Malaysia, Parupalli Kashyap faces Japan’s Kenta Nishimoto while Sameer Verma takes on Indonesia’s Shesar Hiren Rhustavito.
Youngster Lakshya Sen’s first-round engagement will be against Denmark’s Rasmus Gemke. B Sai Praneeth, meanwhile, will feature against Thai player Kantaphon Wangcharoen.
If Praneeth reaches the second round, he could come up against Danish ace Viktor Axelsen.
In the Toyota Thailand Open, Srikanth faces Thailand’s Sitthikom Thammasin, Kashyap plays Gemke and Sai Praneeth goes up against Malaysia’s Liew Daren.
Lakshya Sen, meanwhile, will be in for a tough challenge against second seed Chou Tien Chen of Chinese Taipei. Prannoy, in his game, will battle sixth seed Jonatan Christie of Indonesia.
Sourabh Verma and Sameer Verma have also been drawn against seeded players in the first round. Sourabh plays fifth-seeded Anthony Sinisuka Ginting of Indonesia while Sameer locks horns with Zii Jia – the eight seed.
The two tournaments will kickstart the Asian leg of the BWF World Tour after a COVID-enforced break.
Barring the Denmark Open and SaarLorLux Open in October, which most top Indian shuttlers including PV Sindhu and Saina Nehwal opted to sit out, the badminton calendar has been on hold since the All England Open in March 2020.