The 24-year-old, who won the title in 2009 and 2010 when it was a Grand Prix event before claiming the crown last year again, will face tough competition from runners-up and third seed P. V. Sindhu and reigning world champion Carolina Marin of Spain in women’s singles.

“I am looking forward to the event. Last year turned out to be a good season for me and I think Syed Modi is the right tournament to start the year,” Saina, who will open her campaign against Malaysia’s Yin Fun Lim on Wednesday in the main draw, said.

“I am the defending champion here. So I hope I can once again win the title and start the season on a positive note.

However, it won’t be easy because we have a few very good players such as Carolina and Sindhu. So hope for the best,” added Saina, who has fifth seed Beatriz Corrales and compatriot P. C. Tulashi in her half, among others.

Sindhu, who won multiple bronze medals in team events last year, will open against a qualifier but her real challenge will start in the third round, where she is likely to face Thailand’s Porntip Buranaprasertsuk, seeded sixth.

Sindhu had last week reached the semifinals of the Malaysian Grand Prix Gold.

The USD 120,000 event, being organised by Uttar Pradesh Badminton Association (UPBA) at BBD UP Badminton Academy, Gomti Nagar will also see tough competition between Indian shuttlers in the men’s singles event.

While last year’s runners-up K. Srikanth will look to go the distance this time, Commonwealth Games champion Parupalli Kashyap could prove to be his biggest competitor.

Srikanth, who entered the big league after stunning two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan of China to win the China Super Series Premier last year, will also face resistance from compatriots Ajay Jayaram, who won the Dutch Grand Prix last year, Indonesian Masters GPG champion H. S. Prannoy, Commonwealth Games bronze medallist RMV Gurusaidutt.

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