India’s No. 1 shuttler HS Prannoy will make his much-anticipated return from a back injury, while Lakshya Sen will look to find his rhythm in the Japan Masters Super 500 tournament beginning at Kumamoto, Japan on Tuesday. Prannoy had pulled out of the Denmark and French Open due to a back injury that troubled him during his historic bronze medal-winning performance at the Asian Games in Hangzhou last month. The 31-year-old, his back heavily taped, had secure India’s first medal in men’s singles in 41 years at the Hangzhou showpiece.
Returning to action after four weeks, the World Championships bronze medallist will like to take it “slowly” as he will be up against unseeded Lee Cheuk Yui of Hong Kong.
“I am just taking it a little slowly, not rushing up on the injury side,” Prannoy had told PTI before leaving for Japan.
“I would say it is pretty better than how it was during the Asian Games. I have started training also.
“We also have to do the workload correctly. That is the biggest challenge, which I face as a player in the next few years.” If Prannoy overcomes his opponents in the first two rounds, his first big challenge could be against second-seeded Anthony Sinisuka Ginting of Indonesia in the quarterfinals.
The tournament will also offer opportunities to Sen and Kidambi Srikanth to earn ranking points as the Olympic qualification period has already begun on May 1 and will run until April 28 next year.
The world’s top-16 during the period will make the cut for Paris.
While world No. 8 Prannoy finds himself safely inside the Olympic qualification bracket, Sen (No. 17) and Srikanth (No. 23) will look to collect more ranking points to be in the safe zone before the Paris cut-off date.
The 2022 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Sen has slipped following his triumph in the Canada Open in July. He was eliminated in the first round of his last four tournaments, which included giving a walkover to his opponent at the Hong Kong Open Super 500.
Sen would look to quickly get his act together as the Olympic qualification route is tough.
He will be up against third seed and local favourite Kodai Naraoka. That Sen defeated the world No. 5 Japanese in their last exchange at the Indonesia Masters in January may boost his sagging morale.
Also, Srikanth will have to produce some good results to earn ranking points in the race for Olympic qualification.
Srikanth will begin his campaign against a qualifier. Priyanshu Rajawat is the fourth Indian in the fray in the men’s singles and he is pitted against Lin Chun-Yi of Chinese Taipei.
Double Olympic medallist PV Sindhu is seeded eighth and is the only Indian in the fray in women’s singles.
She will be up against unseeded Mia Blichfeldt of Denmark. Sindhu has a 6-1 record against the world No. 18 Danish shuttler.
India’s ace doubles duo of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty have been given the top billing and will begin their campaign against Chinese-Taipei’s Elu Ching Yao and Yang Po Han.
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