Top Indian shuttlers, including HS Prannoy and Lakshya Sen, have been handed tricky draws at next month’s India Open Super 750 badminton tournament as they gear up to exploit the home advantage with Paris Olympics qualification at stake. With the race to Paris heading into its final stretch, Indian shuttlers will look to earn valuable points at the Yonex-Sunrise India Open to be held at the Indira Gandhi Stadium from January 16 to 21. While Asian Games gold medallists Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty and bronze medallist Prannoy will aim to boost their position in the world ranking, the likes of Kidambi Srikanth, Sen and Priyanshu Rajawat will be gunning for the second Indian spot at the Games.
According to the Olympics qualification rules, two Indian men’s singles players can participate in the Games only if both of them are ranked among the Top-16 at the end of the qualification process on April 30.
It will be an all Indian opening match between 2022 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Sen and Rajawat, while eighth seed Prannoy will be open against Chinese Taipei’s Chou Tien Chen.
He will face the winner of the match between Sen and Rajawat if he clears the first-round hurdle.
Former champion Srikanth, currently in 24th position in the race to Paris rankings, will meet Hong Kong’s Lee Cheuk Yiu in the opening round and has a potential second-round clash against defending champion Kunlavut Viditsarn of Thailand.
In men’s doubles, former champions and second seeds Satwik and Chirag will kick off their challenge against World No. 25 Fang-Jen Lee and Fang-Chih Lee of Taipei in the opening round and are expected to go deeper in the competition.
The women’s doubles combinations of Treesa Jolly-Gayatri Gopichand and Ashwini Ponnappa-Tanisha Crasto are also locked into a see-saw battle for an Olympics spot.
All England semi-finalists Treesa and Gayatri have a tough opener against fourth seeds Nami Matsuyama and Chiharu Shida of Japan, while Ashwini and Crasto, who made three back-to-back finals to end 2023 on a high, will face World No. 10 Thai combination of Rawinda Prajongjai and Jongkolphan Kititharakul in the first round.
Two-time Olympic medallist PV Sindhu will miss the tournament as she is recovering from left knee injury which she sustained during the French Open in October. She might be out till February.
“All our Olympic hopefuls will have a good chance of using the home conditions to earn valuable points and even win the title,” BAI General Secretary Sanjay Mishra said in a release.
“It will also be a great opportunity for fans to witness some breathtaking action as more top ranked players will be participating.” Among the other high profile first round clashes, defending women’s singles champion An Se Young of South Korea will take on three-time champion Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand while Spain’s Carolina Marin will face Nozomi Okuhara of Japan in a clash of former world champions.
In men’s singles, former world champion Loh Kean Yew of Singapore will meet third seed and reigning All England champion Li Shi Feng of China while top seed Viktor Axelsen will open his campaign against Wang Tzu Wei of Chinese Taipei.
Organised by the Badminton Association of India (BAI), the event was upgraded to Super 750 category from Super 500 last year. It has also meant that almost all the Top-10 players in current world ranking will be in action at the KD Jadhav Indoor Hall and badminton lovers can enjoy watching them in action on all six days for free as the BAI has decided to keep the entry free.
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