Focus will be on two-time Olympic medallist PV Sindhu and world championships bronze winner Lakshya Sen when they lead India’s challenge at the Badminton Asia Championships, beginning here 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 is returning after a gap of two years due to COVID-19.
The prestigious event will, however, lose a bit of sheen with the withdrawal of an 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 “minor injury” sustained on the way to his Swiss Open final finish, it will be a great opportunity for All England silver medallist Sen.
The 20-year-old from Almora, who won the Asian Junior Championships in 2016 and 2018, 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.
Sen, seeded 5th, 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 eagar 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 shutter He Bing Jiao in the quarterfinals if she can cross the initial rounds.
7th seeded Kidambi Srikanth, who will look to gather steam in an important year, will begin his campaign 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.
CAN SAINA SHINE?
Focus will also be on London Olympics bronze medalist Saina Nehwal as she looks to claim her fourth medal at the Badminton Asia Championships.
Saina has been on a comeback trail 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 her 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 of 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. (With Inputs from PTI)