Can Srikanth end his struggles at the site of his last big triumph?
It's been 48 months since Kidambi Srikanth's last Superseries title. The French Open Super 750, which begins in Paris this week, was the setting for that win four years ago, before he slipped into a baffling pit of poor form. Last week following his second-round loss to world No 1 Kento Momota at the Denmark Open, Srikanth would point out that he was "almost there".
To be fair, he was. He carried a handy lead in the first game, but Momota managed to see himself through and Srikanth fell to his tenth straight loss against him. The Japanese is coming off Sunday's 93-minute marathon final against eventual champion, Viktor Axelsen. In a recurring nightmare, Srikanth will meet Momota again in the first round of the French Open this week.
Kinder draw for Sindhu
For PV Sindhu, seeded third, the draw is a lot kinder. The good news is she doesn't meet her toughest opponents in the tournament - last weekend's Denmark Open champion Akane Yamaguchi or Korean teen An Seyoung, who blew the Indian away in the quarters, until the final.
The double Olympic medalist faces Dane Julie Jakobsen, ranked 39 in the world, in the opener. The two haven't played each other at a BWF Tour event before. In the quarterfinals, Sindhu is likely to come up against either Busanan Ongbamrungphan - who she scraped past last week or an improved Kirsty Gilmour, coming off her maiden Superseries semifinal appearance in Odense. It is, however, still early days in the fresh cycle of tournaments after the Olympics and Sindhu would want to be peaking in time for two major year-end events- the World Tour Finals and the World Championships, in December.
Can Saina rediscover her form?
Sania Nehwal, placed in Sindhu's half of the draw, will be turning out for only her third tournament after a six-month gap. The resumption has been rough so far - she retired from her opening Uber Cup match, lost in the Denmark Open first round last week to Japan's Aya Ohori and faces another Japanese, Sayaka Takahashi, whom she's lost to on all three occasions they've played each other in, since 2019.
What about the rest?
Among the remaining pool of singles players, Prannoy is faced with a tough Chou Tien-Chen test while Lakshya Sen and Sai Praneeth will go up against each other and the winner will likely face reigning All England champion, world No 8 Lee Zii Jia. The Malaysian had upset Axelsen in that final. Both Sameer Verma and Jonathan Christie, who are drawn to face each other in the first round, had retired from their respective Denmark Open quarterfinal matches over injury last week. Sections of Indonesian media have been reporting that Christie and Anthony Ginting have pulled out from the French Open but there has been no confirmation yet from BWF so far.
In the men's doubles, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty will need to overcome the Chinese Taipei pair of Lee Jhe-Huei and Yang Po-Hsuan, ranked 18 spots below them, for a likely second round against the rising Indian duo on the blocks, Dhruv Kapila and MR Arjun.