PV Sindhu, Lakshya Sen among title contenders at India Open
The country’s top shuttlers, including reigning champion Lakshya Sen and double Olympic medallist PV Sindhu, will look to keep their date with destiny as they will be title contenders in at least three of the five events when the India Open Super 750 begins in New Delhi on Tuesday.
Indian badminton never had this good with as many as three players — Sindhu (7), Sen (10), HS Prannoy (8) in singles world’s top 10 and the men’s doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty at world No. 5 — all coming into the season with loads of success last year.
While seventh seed Sen and Satwik-Chirag, seeded fifth, are entering the USD 900,000 event as defending champions, Sindhu and world No. 13 Kidambi Srikanth are also former champions.
However, the past results will count for little as all the big stars of world badminton will be pitted against each other — some of them in the opening round itself — during the upgraded version of India’s flagship event.
Sen and Prannoy, two most prominent figures of Indian men’s singles in 2022, will engage in yet another slugfest in the opening round with the younger of the two hoping to return the favour this time after last week’s opening round reversal in Kuala Lumpur.
Sindhu’s return after a long injury lay-off at the Malaysia Open was spoilt by long-time nemesis Spain’s Carolina Marin, who herself is on a comeback trail having sustained two ACL injuries in both her knees in the last few years.
This week, it will be Thailand’s Supanida Katethong who will stand in her way in the first round and Sindhu will hope to find her sharpness in attack and strength in defence to avoid any hiccup, having lost to her in the last edition.
The former world champion, who has been out of action due to a heel injury since the Commonwealth Games in August, is likely to face a potential quarter-final clash against Olympic champion Chen Yufei of China.
Satwik and Chirag will be brimming with confidence after a semifinal finish at the Super 1000 event last week as they begin their men’s doubles campaign against Denmark’s Jeppe Bay and Lasse Molhede, ranked No. 31 in the world.
The Indian duo is likely to face a real test in a potential quarter-final clash against top seeds Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi of Japan.
However, no one has a tougher task at hand than former world No. 1 Srikanth, who will open against reigning Olympic and two-time world champion Viktor Axelsen, who has extended his record-breaking winning streak by retaining the Malaysia title on Sunday.
London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal, a former winner of the India Open, will begin her campaign against Denmark’s Mia Blichfeldt, desperately hoping for a good run to boost her confidence after another injury-ravaged 2022.
Young guns Malvika Bansod and Aakarshi Kashyap will have their task cut out against Thailand’s world No. 11 Busanan Ongbamrungphan and world No. 24 Beiwen Zhang of the US in the opening round of what will be their first appearance at the Super 750 level.
Among other Indians, Dhruv Kapila and MR Arjun will be missing in action due to an injury but Krishna Prasad G and Vishnuvardhan Goud P will hope for a good start when they square off against the Netherlands’ Ruben Jille and Ties Van Der Lecq.
In women’s doubles, All England semi-finalists and Commonwealth Games bronze medallists Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand Pullela will meet France’s Margot Lambert and Anne Tran in the opening round, while Ashwini Bhat K and Shikha Gautam will open 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’ Robin Tabeling and Selena Piek.
Among international stars, Axelsen, who has lost just three matches in 2022, and Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi, who has won four titles in 2022 including the All England, World Championships and World Tour Finals, will be favourites for the crown following their title run in Malaysia.
All eyes will also be on the next-gen shuttlers — Japan’s new sensation Kodai Naraoka, Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia, former world champion Loh Kean Yew and Thailand’s Kunlavut Vitidsarn.