Thursday, April 25, 2024

Focus on Satwik-Chirag as home shuttlers look to dazzle at India Open


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NEW DELHI, Jan 15: Expectations will be high when Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty spearhead the home challenge at the India Open super 750 badminton tournament beginning here on Tuesday, hoping to annex their first silverware of the new season.
With six titles in 2023, Satwik and Chirag have been a cut above the rest of the Indians, and the runner-up finish at the Malaysia super 1000 has only spiced things up as the Indian shuttlers look to deliver at home.
The BAI flagship tournament, which was upgraded to super 750 in 2023, proved a dampener for home shuttlers last season when none of the Indians could cross the second round.
In the 2022 edition, Satwik-Chirag and Lakshya Sen stood on the podium with the men’s doubles and men’s singles crown and the home shuttlers will hope to once again live up to the expectations and prove that last year was an aberration.
Satwik and Chirag have the wherewithal to go the distance this time as the duo will be charged up after coming marginally short in the final in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.
Second seeds Satwik and Chirag, who were forced to pull out ahead of the second round last year due to an injury suffered by the former, will face world No. 25 Fang-Jen Lee and Fang-Chih Lee of Taipei in their opening round.
While Satwik-Chirag will be one of the frontrunners for the title, all eyes will also be on HS Prannoy, Lakshya Sen, and Kidambi Srikanth in men’s singles, especially in the absence of two-time Olympic medallist P V Sindhu, who is nursing a knee injury.
Having fared poorly in Malaysia, world No. 8 Prannoy and Lakshya will look to find their rhythm quickly, while Srikanth must have got some confidence back following his win over Jonatan Christie in the opening round last week.
Prannoy and Sen will look for a good start, having suffered first-round exits in Kuala Lumpur, when they open against Chinese Taipei’s Chou Tien Chen and Priyanshu Rajawat respectively.
Srikanth, the 2021 World silver medallist, looked in good touch during his Malaysia Open first round last week and it will be paramount for him to go deep into the tournament which he won in 2015, keeping the race to Olympic qualification in mind.
The former world No.1 will open against Hong Kong’s Lee Cheuk Yiu.
It is a two-way race for the second spot in the Olympic qualification with Srikanth, a 2016 Rio Olympic Olympian, currently ranked 24th and Sen ahead at 17th spot. Prannoy at eighth remains the frontrunner.The Olympic race in women’s doubles has also heated up with the new pair of Ashwini Ponnappa, a two-time Olympian, and Tanisha Crasto and Commonwealth Games bronze medallists Gayatri Gopichand and Treesa Jolly, both ranked 14th in Olympic Games qualification.
Ashwini-Tanisha reached three successive finals in December last year and won one of them at the Guwahati Masters.
The duo reached the second round in Malaysia and would look to continue their good run when they take on the world No. 10 Thai combination of Rawinda Prajongjai and Jongkolphan Kititharakul.
Treesa and Gayatri, on the other hand, will cross swords against fourth seeds Nami Matsuyama and Chiharu Shida of Japan.
Denmark’s world No.1 shuttler Viktor Axelsen has pulled out of the India Open after falling sick while playing in the Malaysia Open.
“After my match on Saturday, I’ve been laying in bed ill and after talking with the medical team present here in Malaysia, I’ve been advised to get additional checkup,” wrote Axelsen, who had lost in the semifinal to China’s Shi Yuqi last week, on ‘X’.
“That means that I unfortunately won’t be able to travel and be present at India Open this year, which is rather disappointing as it has been a tournament where I’ve loved to play in front of the Indian badminton fans.” The last-minute withdrawal of the top-seeded Axelsen will only brighten the chances of Prannoy, Lakshya and Priyanshu – one of whom was likely to run into him in the quarterfinals. (PTI)


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