New Delhi: A year ago, Saina Nehwal had capped a hat-trick of Super Series titles with a win here, but the Indian ace now faces the task of overcoming a recent dip in form to defend the crown at the Hong Kong Open, which starts with the qualifiers on Tuesday.
Saina had won three Super Series title -- Singapore, Indonesia and Hong Kong -- besides winning the Commonwealth Games and India Open Grand Prix gold last year but this year, a Super Series title has eluded the Indian.
Consistency, which was her forte last year, has betrayed Saina this season and even though the 21-year-old won the Swiss Open Grand Prix Gold and finished runner-up at Malaysia and Indonesia, she had a few first and second round exits.
Come Wednesday, the world number four Saina will take on Hong Kong`s Tsz Ka Chan in her tournament opener.
Interestingly, Saina had faced Chan in the first round of the last edition too, beating her in straight-games and the Indian would look to keep her slate clean when she takes her on again at the same venue on Wednesday.
Her journey further on the tournament will depend on how she tackles the likes of seventh seed Dane Tine Baun and second seed Shixian Wang of China if she faces them during the course of the event.
In the men`s singles, P Kashyap and Ajay Jayaram have been handed out tough draws as the unseeded Indians face top-10 players in the opening round.
Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Kashyap will take on four-time world champion and reigning Olympic champion, Lin Dan of China, while Ajay Jayaram will be up against sixth seed Sho Sasaki in the opening round.
World number 18 Indian pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa will face eighth seeds Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl of Denmark.
Jwala will also pair up with V Diju to take on the local combo of Wai Hong Wong and Hoi Wah Chau in the mixed doubles opener, while Rupesh Kumar and Sanave Thomas will play the English duo of Chris Adcock and Andrew Ellis in their first round matches of the men`s doubles event.
In the qualifiers, Sourabh Varma will face Ka Long Ng, experienced but out-of-form shuttler Arvind Bhat will play Wing Chiu Tsang and RMV Gurusaidutt will be up against Toby Ng in the men`s singles.
Teen sensation PV Sindhu, who won the Swiss International, last month, will face off Wing Chiu Tsang of Hong Kong in the first round of qualification on Tuesday.
The 16-year-old Indian had some amazing performances this year, one of them being her stunning win over Porntip Buranaprasertsuk of Thailand en route to her runner-up finish at the Dutch Open.