Bhat leads Indian challenge in qualifiers

New Delhi: Arvind Bhat, who turned back the clock to win the German Open Grand Prix Gold title early this month, leads the Indian challenge in the men`s singles qualifying round of the Yonex Sunrise India Open BWF Metlife Superseries beginning here on Tuesday.

The 34-year Bhat, ranked 65 in the world, will certainly be keen to continue his dream run and look forward to a perfect warm-up when he clashes with 24-year-old Malaysian Mohammad Arif, ranked 32 places lower, in the first round.

In the next round, Bhat who became only the second Indian player to win a GP Gold title outside India, is expected to meet 53rd ranked Israel`s Misha Zilberman, who is up against India`s K Ajay Kumar.

Former National champion, 33-year-old Chetan Anand, ranked 84, has a tough first round as he takes on 54th ranked Zulfadli Zulkiffli of Malyasia at the Siri Fort Sports Complex here.

In the lower half of the draw, 27-year-old Russian Valdimir Malkov, ranked 64th and Suppanyu Avihingsanon of Thailand, ranked 59th, both have easy draws and should comfortably qualify for the tournament proper.

The other Indian men in the fray are Subhankar Dey, Anup Sridhar, Aditya Prakash and NVS Vijetha.

The women`s qualifying draw does not consist of a very competitive field with 14 Indian players in contention.

Besides Sweden`s Matilda Peterson (rank 97) and China`s Liu Xin (rank 83), the top ranked women among with Indian players Sayali Ghokale (rank 160) and Dhanya Nair (rank 178) are the strong contenders to progress to the main draw.

The men`s and women`s doubles and the mixed doubles qualifying rounds will also be held on Tuesday. The main tournament starts from April 2.