Two-time Olympic medalist PV Sindhu and World Championships bronze medalist Lakshya Sen will be the center of attention as they lead India’s challenge at the Badminton Asia Championships, which begins here on Tuesday.
Much hope will be pinned on Sen and Sindhu as the duo has been in fine form ahead of the Continental Championships returning after a two-year hiatus due to COVID-19.
However, the prestigious event will lose some of its luster as an injured HS Prannoy, who won bronze at the 2018 Wuhan edition, has been withdrawn and is in good form. While Prannoy is sidelined en route to his Swiss Open final due to a ‘minor injury’, it will be a great opportunity for All-England silver medalist Sen.
The 20-year-old from Almora has had an excellent run with title wins at the India Open Super 500 and recent appearances at the German Open and All England Championships.
Sen had also won bronze at the 2020 Asian Team Championships and won gold and bronze at the 2018 and 2016 Asian Junior Championships.
The fifth-placed Indian will be dying to win a senior tournament medal, but it will be easier said than done when he meets 22-year-old China’s Li Shi Feng, a two-time World Junior Championships gold medalist, in his opening round.
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All eyes will also be on former fourth world champion Sindhu, who took bronze at the 2014 Gimcheon edition and comes to the event after two Super 300 titles at the Syed Modi International and Swiss Open.
The Indian, world No. 7, looks forward to bagging another medal as she begins her campaign against Chinese Taipei’s Pai Yu Po. Sindhu is likely to face fifth-seeded China’s He Bing Jiao in the quarterfinals if she can survive the early rounds.
World Championship silver medalist Kidambi Srikanth was also in touch, although he was guilty of not being able to finish some close matches. The seventh-seeded Indian, who has twice won bronze at the Asian Team Championships in 2016 and 2020 but failed to secure an individual medal, will look to capitalize on the opportunity this time when he opens against Malaysia’s NG Tze Yong.
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Tokyo Olympian B Sai Praneeth will also have a good show in mind when he opens against fourth-placed Jonatan Christie.
London Olympics bronze medalist Saina Nehwal will also be in the spotlight as she attempts to earn her fourth medal at the Badminton Asia Championships.
Saina was in a comeback test after recovering from some nagging injuries and had skipped qualifying tests for the upcoming major events like the Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and the Uber Cup.
The former world number one will look to silence her critics as she begins her campaign against Korea’s Sim Yujin. Among others, Aakarshi Kashyap, who was nominated for all three major events after emerging victorious from the trials, meets Akane Yamaguchi.
World No. 7 and third-placed Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty will open against Thailand’s pair of Apiluk Gaterahong and Natchanon Tulamok.
MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila, who recently made the Asian Games and Thomas Cup teams after finishing top in the selections in New Delhi, will also be in action. The unseeded Indian pair meets fourth-seeded Indonesian combination Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto in their opening round.
Krishna Prasad Garaga and Vishnuvardhan Goud Panjala, who reached the quarterfinals at the Odisha Open Super 100 and German Open Super 300 and finished second at the Syed Modi International Super 300, will try to do well.
In women’s doubles, India will lack clout following the withdrawal of N Sikki Reddy and Ashwini Ponnappa, as well as Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand. While Sikki was injured in the recently concluded New Delhi selections, Treesa and Gayatri were also eliminated at the last minute after the latter sustained an injury.
Ashwini Bhat K and Shikha Gautam and young duo Simran Singhi and Ritika Thaker will represent India in women’s doubles. In the mixed doubles, Venkat Gaurav Prasad and Juhi Dewangan, as well as Ishaan Bhatnagar and Tanisha Crasto, will be looking to be high in the draw.