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Indian hopefuls gear up to exploit home advantage

With the Race to Paris 2024 heading into its final stretch, Indian shuttlers will have an excellent opportunity to earn valuable points and stake claims to Olympic berths across categories at the Yonex-Sunrise India Open Super 750 to be held at the Indira Gandhi Stadium in New Delhi from January 16-21, 2024.

According to the Paris 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 that ends on April 30, 2024.

The Yonex-Sunrise India Open, organised by the Badminton Association of India (BAI), was upgraded to Super 750 category from Super 500 last year which means that the players can earn significantly higher ranking points in their quest for Olympics qualification.

Asian Games gold medallists Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty and bronze medallist HS Prannoy will aim to boost their position in the world ranking ahead of the Paris Olympics while the likes of former World No. 1 Kidambi Srikanth, 2022 Commonwealth Games gold medallist Lakshya Sen and the upcoming player Priyanshu Rajawat will be gunning for the second Indian spot at the Games.

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.

Among the Indian stars, one among Sen and Rajawat are assured of a pre-quarterfinal spot as the young guns will face off against each other in the men’s singles opening round.

Eighth seed Prannoy will be opening his campaign against Chou Tien Chen of Chinese Taipei and will face the winner of the match between Sen and Rajawat after clearing 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, last week Malaysia Open’s Runner-up 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.

With two-time Olympic medallist PV Sindhu recovering from a knee injury, India will have no representation in women’s singles. There are also no Indians competing in mixed doubles.

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. Top seed Viktor Axelsen has withdrawn due to illness.

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