Lakshya Sen and PV Sindhu excited about home support in ‘Bigger than ever’ India Open 2023 -
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Lakshya Sen and PV Sindhu excited about home support in ‘Bigger than ever’ India Open 2023

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Axelsen, Yufei, Yamaguchi, Lee Zii Jia among top entries as China field a 30-member strong contingent for the first-time in the tournament starting January 17

Khel Today Bureau

New Delhi: Defending champion Lakshya Sen and former champion PV Sindhu would be among the 19-member strong Indian contingent looking to carve their name on the India Open 2023 trophy and the star shuttlers are looking forward to showcase their skills in front of home fans after a year’s hiatus.

The India Open, which is part BWF World Tour, has been upgraded to Super 750 category from this year and the world’s best players would be vying for the coveted title at the KD Jadhav Indoor Hall in New Delhi from January 17-22, 2023.

Sen had won the title last year beating then world champion Loh Kean Yew of Singapore in the final while Sindhu had reached the semi-finals stage. The 2022 edition was played behind closed door due to Covid restrictions and both Sen and Sindhu are excited about the prospect of playing in front of a packed stadium supporting them.

“India Open has always been a special tournament for me as I get to play in front of the home crowd. Last time fans were not allowed but this time I am looking forward to playing with all the support in the stands,” said PV Sindhu at the pre-event press conference on Monday.

Sindhu would be opening her challenge against Thailand’s Supanida Katethong, against whom she had lost in the last four stage here last year. The Tokyo Olympics bronze medallist admitted that the Thai left-hander was a deceptive player but expressed confidence that she can tackle the challenge comfortably.

“Yes, I lost to her last time but I have also beaten her thereafter. I have also worked on some new things and you will see those changes in the tournament,” added Sindhu, who returned to international action at the Malaysia Open Super 1000 earlier this month following a long injury lay-off.

While Sindhu is banking on the home crowd to get going, Sen has the added pressure of being the defending champion and knows that the level of competition has only added another dimension to his title defence.

He will also be playing compatriot HS Prannoy in the opening round and that can be an added pressure on the 2022 Commonwealth Games champion.

But to his credit, Sen showed that he has a very matured head on his shoulders when he said he can’t afford to think much about the way the luck of the draw has been and treat the opening round as any other match. “My ultimate aim is to defend my title. But I am going to focus on one match at a time.

“Me and Prannoy have played many times in the last one year. But most of those matches were at the quarterfinal stage. But this time we are playing back to back first round matches and I need to treat it as any other match,” he added.

Three-time world champion Carolina Marin will also be looking to announce that she is well and truly back after a long injury break. The Spaniard reached the quarterfinals of the Malaysia Open last week and is looking forward to winning a few titles on the tour this season.

“There are a few things I need to work on. But overall, I am happy with the way I played in Malaysia and I am not afraid of facing anyone,” said Marin, who will open her campaign against another former world champion Nozomi Okuhara of Japan.

Apart from Marin vs Okuhara and Sen vs Prannoy there are quite a few exciting first round encounters in the tournament that carries a prize purse of $850,000. According to the draw, former champion Kidambi Srikanth would face Axelsen and third seed Loh Kean Yew of Singapore will take on last week’s Malaysia Open Super 1000 finalist Kodai Naraoka of Japan in the men’s singles opening round.

The first Super 750 event of the year has attracted a total of 242 players from 22 countries with badminton powerhouse China sending the largest contingent comprising 15 male and 15 female players. Japan has entered the second biggest squad of 29 (14 men and 15 women), followed by Indonesia and Malaysia.

Host India’s hopes will ride on a 19-member contingent led by former world champion PV Sindhu, world no. 8 men’s singles player HS Prannoy and Commonwealth Games Gold medallist men’s doubles combination of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty.

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