Saina didn’t send her entries for the Japan Open and in her absence the onus will be on other top shuttlers, including two-time World Championship bronze medallist P.V. Sindhu, World No. 4 Kidambi Srikanth and Commonwealth Games champion Parupalli Kashyap, to earn India some good results.

However, it will be an uphill task for the Indian shuttlers as they face some of their toughest rivals in the tournament to be held at SK Handball Stadium.

World No. 14 Sindhu will face former world champion Ratchanok Intanon in the opening round of Women’s singles competition. The World No. 5 Thai, seeded third, has a 3-0 record against Sindhu, who lost in straight-games all the three times in the matches which were all held in 2013.

In men’s singles, Srikanth will meet China’s Tian Houwei. The world No. 11 had beaten the Indian twice this year at the Australian Open and Malaysian Open and the 22-year-old will be eager to avenge the losses.

World No. 8 Kashyap will take on Hong Kong’s Wei Nan. The Indian had beaten him during the China Open in a gruelling three-game match last year.

Indonesia Masters winner H S Prannoy will fight it out against seventh seed Chou Tien Chen of Chinese Taipei. He had lost to Chen during the 2013 Swiss Open. The Taiwanese shuttler is in good form, having reached the semifinals at Japan Open last week.

Dutch Open winner Ajay Jayaram will square up against Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen, seeded sixth. The Indian will look to take inspiration from his lone victory over the Denmark shuttler during the Indonesian Open in 2012.

However, things have changed drastically ever since as Axelsen rose to the World No. 6, Jayaram’s ranking dwindled to 31st. Moreover, Axelsen is in red-hot form after reaching the finals of Japan Open last week.

In women’s doubles, Sikki Reddy and Pradnya Gadre will lead Indian challenge in the absence of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa when they face Japanese pair of Shizuka Matsuo and Mami Naito.

Jwala had pulled out of the tournament because of health issues. Sikki will pair up with Tarun Kona in mixed doubles to meet top seed Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei of China.

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