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Malaysia Open: Lakshya vs. Prannoy in first round again, Sindhu faces Carolina Marin

International badminton returns for the 2023 season on Tuesday with the newly upgraded Malaysia Open Super 1000. The tournament will kickstart a big season for Indian badminton, as the top players look to carry forward the momentum of 2022 into an important year that has Asian Games, Asian Championships and the start of Olympic qualification.

The season-opening tournament also mark the return of India No. 1 PV Sindhu after a six-month long injury layoff; the longest in her career so far.

India’s singles players have been handed a particularly rough draw, with yet another early meeting between Lakshya Sen and HS Prannoy while Sindhu will start against Carolina Marin.

Here’s a look at the draws and chances of Indian badminton stars at the Malaysia Open:

Men’s singles

Kidambi Srikanth vs. Kenta Nishimoto

Lakshya Sen vs. HS Prannoy

There is not much to say about this draw except repeat what Prannoy tweeted: “Lakshya Sen looks like Tournament Software wants to see only us playing against each other in all tournaments.”

The two highest ranked Indians in men’s singles will play each other in the first round for the first two tournaments of 2023… after playing each other five times in 2022. This despite the latest, unfrozen rankings showing Prannoy to be the India No. 1, which means he will be seeded at later events.

For now though, we have to more Lakshya vs. Prannoy matches to go, with the younger leading their current head-to-head 3-2. Whoever wins in Malaysia, will go on to play the winner of the match between Hans-Kristian Solberg Vittinghus and Chico Aura Dwi Wardoyo. The other seed in the quarter (after seventh seed Lakshya) is second-seeded Lee Zii Jia, who starts his campaign against Japanese rising star Kodai Naraoka.

In the other half of the draw, Srikanth starts against Kenta Nishimoto against whom he holds a 5-1 record, although they last played in 2019. If he wins, his second round opponent could be fifth seed Jonatan Christie with a potential quarterfinal against top seed Viktor Axelsen.

Women’s singles

PV Sindhu vs. Carolina Marin

Saina Nehwal vs. Han Yue

Aakarshi Kashyap vs. Wen Chi Hsu

Malvika Bansod vs. An Se Young

India will have four participants in women’s singles this time, which is a good sign despite the draw.

Sindhu, seeded sixth, will play her first match since the Commonwealth Games gold medal in August against old rival Carolina Marin, who has been on an injury comeback trail since last year. Marin holds a 9-5 record against Sindhu and has won the last three matches they played. The winner will play either or Pornpawee Chochuwong and Yeo Jia Min with Olympic champion Chen Yu Fei the other seed in the quarter.

Saina Nehwal will start against China’s Han Yue, who have a split 1-1 head-to-head record. If she wins, she will be up against third seed Tai Tzu Ying, who has a 15-5 record against the Indian. He Bing Jiao is the other seed in the quarter.

Aakarshi Kashyap will take on Chinese Taipei’s Wen Chi Hsu in the opener in what will be the first meeting between the two. If she wins, she will be up against fifth seed He Bing Jiao.

Malvika Bansod will have a tough start on her hands, having drawn Korean second seed An Se Young. If she comes through, she will play the winner of Yvonne Li vs Goh Jin Wei.