The Indian men's singles players were handed a tough draw in the India Open 2023 as all three of them were bunched together in one quarter while former world champion PV Sindhu faces her last edition nemesis Supanida Katethong in the opening round.
The India Open, part of the BWF World Tour series, has been upgraded to the Super 750 category this year. The upgraded status has meant that almost all the top stars of world badminton would be in action at the IG Stadium (KD Jadhav Indoor hall) from January 17-22, 2023, in New Delhi.
India's hopes for a title encore rests on the trio of Kidambi Srikanth, HS Prannoy and Lakshya Sen but the luck of the draw means only one of them can cross the last eight hurdle from a quarter that also includes reigning World and Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen, China's Shi Yu Qi and Japan's Kento Momota.
Defending champion Sen will begin his campaign against compatriot Prannoy and the winner of their match is likely to run into Momota, who is looking to hit the ground running in 2023 after struggling for form this year.
Former champion Srikanth has to overcome the challenge of top seed Axelsen in the opening round with a potential clash against Shi, who has made a strong comeback after being out of action for almost 10 months.
None of the other three quarters boast of such a strong star cast but there would be a few mouth-watering opening round clashes to look forward to.
Third seed and former world champion Loh Kean Yew of Singapore will take on the fast-rising Japanese Kodai Naraoka while sixth seed Anthony Sinisuka Ginting of Indonesia will face China's Lu Guang Zu in the first round.
In the women's singles, former world champions Nozomi Okuhara of Japan and Carolina Marin of Spain will face off in the opening round clash as both of them were troubled by injuries in 2022 and have been unseeded at the India Open 2023.
Top seed Akane Yamaguchi of Japan will kick off her campaign against Spain's Clara Azurmendi while Olympic champion and third seed Chen Yu Fei of China faces Canada's Michelle Li in the opening round.
Among the Indians, fifth seed Sindhu faces Kathethong in a repeat of last edition's semi-final clash which the Indian lost in three games.
The former world champion has been out of action due to a heel injury since the Commonwealth Games in August 2022 and has a potential quarterfinal clash against Chen Yufei.
Three other Indians would be in the fray in the women's singles with Saina Nehwal kicking off her campaign against Denmark's Mia Blichfeldt.
Upcoming stars, Malvika Bansod and Aakarshi Kashyap have managed to avoid a top-10 opponent in the opening round of what will be their first appearance at the Super 750 level.
World No. 30 Bansod will take on Thailand's world no 11 Busanan Ongbamrungphan while Kashyap, world no. 32 meets former India Open champion and world No. 26 Beiwen Zhang of USA in the opening round.
In the men's doubles, fifth seeds Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty begin their campaign against Denmark's Jeppe Bay and Lasse Molhede, ranked no 31 in the world, and should be targeting a potential quarterfinal clash against top seeds Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi of Japan as the first major hurdle in their title defence.
Among the other Indian pairs, world no. 21 MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila face sixth seeds Kim Astrup and Anders Rasmussen of Denmark in the opening round while Krishna Prasad G and Vishnuvardhan Goud P begin their campaign against Netherlands' Ruben Jille and Ties Van Der Lecq.
In the women's doubles, 2022 All England semi-finalists Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand Pullela will face France's Margot Lambert and Anne Tran in the opening round while Ashwini Bhat K and Shikha Gautam begin their campaign against eighth seeds Pearly Tan and Thinaah Muralitharan of Malaysia.
India's only entry in mixed doubles, Ishaan Bhatnagar and Tanisha Castro will face the Netherlands' pair of Robin Tabeling and Selena Piek.