London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal will lead India’s charge in the Macau Open Grand Prix Gold after three-time champion P V Sindhu pulled out of the event to prepare herself for the Dubai Super Series Finals.

The Rio Olympics silver medallist, Sindhu, who is the defending champion, was originally scheduled to take on China’s Yue Han in the opening match of the tournament on Wednesday.

But Sindhu, seeded second, has withdrawn from the $120,000 event at the last moment keeping in mind the Dubai Super Series Finals as she wanted to be fresh after playing back-to-back tournaments — China Open and Hong Kong Open.

b’Saina Nehwal. Reuters’

“She had originally planned to play at Macau Open but after she qualified for Dubai Super Series Finals, we have decided to skip the event as otherwise she will get not enough time to prepare for the Dubai event,” Sindhu’s father PV Ramana told PTI.

“Winning or losing is not important but at least she should prepare well to compete in such a high-level tournament,” he added.

The Dubai Superseries final will be played from December 14-18 where only the world’s top eight players make the cut.

Sindhu had recently clinched her maiden Super Series Premier title at China Open and then reached the finals at the Hong Kong Super series in the last two weeks.

b’Sindhu has won the Macau title thrice. AFP’

In Sindhu’s absence, compatriot and top seed Saina, who is slowly and steadily getting back her bearing after recovering from a serious knee injury which affected her Olympic campaign three months back, will spearhead India’s campaign in the women’s singles event.

After undergoing a knee surgery in August, followed by a rigorous rehabilitation and training under the watchful eyes of her coach Vimal Kumar, Saina made a comeback at China Open but lost in the opening round. She competed at the Hong Kong Open before losing closely in the quarterfinals.

The former World No. 1 Indian, who will take on Indonesia’s Hanna Ramadini in the opening round, will be eager to add this title to her name to boost her confidence ahead of the new season.

In the men’s singles, national Champion Sameer Verma, who hogged the limelight after reaching the finals at Hong Kong last Sunday, will also hope for another steller performance when he opens his campaign against Czech Milan Ludik.

Feature image source: Reuters