Saina pulls out at last minute, Lakshya eyes 5th title of season

Saina pulls out at last minute, Lakshya eyes 5th title of season
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Highlights

Saina Nehwal pulled out at the last moment to take some sheen off the Syed Modi International, beginning here on Tuesday, when the in-form Lakshya Sen will seek a third BWF World Tour title

Lucknow : Saina Nehwal pulled out at the last moment to take some sheen off the Syed Modi International, beginning here on Tuesday, when the in-form Lakshya Sen will seek a third BWF World Tour title.

Three-time former champion Saina, who has been battling illness and injuries, is going through a bad patch, having lost six times in the first round this season.

The 29-year-old from Hyderabad has already pulled out of the Premier Badminton League (PBL) to prepare for the next season.

World champion P V Sindhu has chosen to give the tournament a miss.

The 18-year-old Lakshya, on the other hand, will look to grab his maiden Super 300 crown this week following his title triumphs at two Super 100 events -- Dutch and SaarLorLux Open -- this year.

Focus will also be on the men's doubles pairing of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, who won the Thailand Open Super 500 title and then reached the finals of French Open Super 750 this season.

On a roll, Lakshya is coming into the tournament after claiming his fourth title in three months by bagging the Scottish Open with a thrilling win over Brazil's Ygor Coelho in the men's singles summit clash here.

The top-seeded Indian overcame his Brazilian opponent 18-21, 21-18, 21-19 in a 56-minute final on Sunday night. The 18-year-old from Uttarakhand has now clinched three titles out of the four tournaments that he has played since September -- SaarLorLux Open, Dutch Open, and Belgian International.

After losing in the second round of Irish Open, Lakshya made amends this week and dished out some superb performances right from the start. "Happy to win the scotish open title!! A hard fought match against my friend @co3lho12. It was really nice training with you in Denmark and playing a good match against you today," Sen tweeted.

Lakshya has joined fellow Indians Anand Pawar (2010 and 2012), Arvind Bhatt (2004) and Pullela Gopichand (1999) in winning the Scottish Open title.

After this win, Lakshya will break into the top-40 in the BWF rankings and inch closer to a direct qualification in the top grade 2 events.

Lakshya will look for another good outing here when he opens against France's Thomas Rouxel.

In women's singles, besides Saina, Mugdha Agrey will be the other Indian challenge. She will face Belgium's Lianne Tan in the opening round.

A host of Indian shuttlers, including 2016 winner Kidambi Srikanth, defending champion Sameer Verma and world championship bronze-medallist B Sai Praneeth, will eye the top spot in the men's singles this week.

Third seed Srikanth, who had reached the finals at India Open this year, will hope to end his two-year long title drought and gather valuable points to arrest the slide in his ranking in the pre-Olympic year when he takes on Russia's Vladimir Malkov.

Fourth seed Praneeth, ranked 10th, will meet Malaysia's Iskandar Zulkarnain in the first round, while two-time champion Sameer Verma will hope to regain some form when he squares off against compatriot Ajay Jayaram in the opening round.

Sameer's elder brother Sourabh, a winner at two Super 100 events in Hyderabad and Vietnam, will face Hong Kong's Lee Cheuk Yiu, who secured a stunning Hong Kong Open title earlier this month.

Former Commonwealth Games champion Parupalli Kashyap, who grabbed the title in 2012 and 2015, will lock horns with France's Lucas Corvee, while HS Prannoy crosses swords with China's Youth Olympic Games gold medallist Li Shi Feng.

In doubles, all hopes will be on second seeded men's pair of Satwiksairaj and Chirag as they open against Chinese combination of Di Zi Jian and Wang Chang. B Sumeeth Reddy and Manu Attri too will hope to put up a good show following their title win at the Infosys Foundation-India International Challenge on Sunday.

In mixed doubles, Satwiksairaj and Ashwini Ponnappa will open against fellow Indians Dhruv Kapila and Meghana Jakkampudi, while Pranaav Jerry Chopra and N Sikki Reddy takes on fourth seeded Chinese pair of He Ji Ting and Du Yue in their opener. In women's doubles, eighth-seeded Ashwini and Sikki will begin against Hong Kong's Ng Tsz Yau and Yuen Sin Ying.

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