Focus will be on two-time Olympic medallist P V Sindhu and world championships bronze winner Lakshya Sen when they lead India’s challenge at the Badminton Asia Championships, beginning on Tuesday.
A lot of hope will ride on Sen and Sindhu as the duo has been in good form in the run-up to the continent championships, which return after a gap of two years due to COVID-19.
The prestigious event will, however, lose a bit of sheen with the withdrawal of injured HS Prannoy, who had claimed a bronze at the 2018 Wuhan edition and is in good form.
While Prannoy will miss out due to a “small injury” sustained on way to his Swiss Open final finish, it will be a great opportunity for All England silver medallist Sen.
Prannoy withdraws from Asian Championships
The 20-year-old from Almora has been on a stellar run with title wins at the India Open Super 500 and final appearance at the German Open and All England Championships.
Sen had also won a bronze at the 2020 Asia team Championships, besides bagging a gold and bronze at the 2018 and 2016 Asian Junior Championships.
The fifth seeded Indian will be eager to win a medal from the senior tournament but it will be easier said than done as he faces 22-year-old China’s Li Shi Feng, a two-time world junior championships gold medallist, in his opening round.
All eyes will also be on former world champion fourth seed Sindhu, who had scooped a bronze from the 2014 Gimcheon edition and is coming into the event after securing two Super 300 titles at Syed Modi International and Swiss Open.
The World No. 7 Indian will be keen to pocket another medal when she begins her campaign against Chinese Taipei’s Pai Yu Po.
Sindhu is likely to come across fifth seeded Chinese He Bing Jiao in the quarterfinals if she can cross the initial rounds.
World championships silver winner Kidambi Srikanth too has been in good touch though he has been guilty of not being able to close out some tight matches.
The seventh seeded Indian, who won two bronze in 2016 and 2020 Asia Team Championships but failed to secure an individual medal, will aim to grab the opportunity this time when he opens against Malaysia’s NG Tze Yong.
Tokyo Olympian B Sai Praneeth too will eye a good show when he opens against fourth seeded Jonatan Christie.
Focus will also be on London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal as she looks to claim her fourth medal at the Badminton Asia Championships.
Saina has been on a comeback trial after recovering from some nagging injuries and had skipped the selection trials for the upcoming major events such as Commonwealth Games, Asian Games and Uber Cup.
The former world number one will look to silence her critics when she begins campaign against Korea’s Sim Yujin.
Among others, Aakarshi Kashyap, who was picked for all the three major events after she emerged as winner in the trials, will face top seed Akane Yamaguchi, while Malvika Bansod, who missed out on a berth, will cross swords with Singapore’s Yeo Jia Min.
World number 7 and third seeds Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty will open against Thailand pair of Apiluk Gaterahong and Natchanon Tulamok.
MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila, who recently made it to the Asian Games and Thomas Cup teams after finishing on top at the selection trials in New Delhi, will also be in action.
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The unseeded Indian pair will be up against fourth seeded Indonesian combination of Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto in its opening round. Krishna Prasad Garaga and Vishnuvardhan Goud Panjala, who had reached the quarters at Odisha Open Super 100 and German Open Super 300 besides finishing runners-up at Syed Modi International Super 300, will look to give a good account of themselves.
In women’s doubles, India will lack the punch following the withdrawals of N Sikki Reddy and Ashwini Ponnappa, and Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand.
While Sikki got injured during the recently-concluded selection trials in New Delhi, Treesa and Gayatri also pulled out at the last minute following an injury to the latter.
Ashwini Bhat K and Shikha Gautam, and young pairing of Simran Singhi and Ritika Thaker will be in the fray in women’s doubles for India.
In the mixed doubles, Venkat Gaurav Prasad and Juhi Dewangan, and Ishaan Bhatnagar and Tanisha Crasto will look to go deep in the draw.