Renowned Indian shuttlers Lakshya Sen and Kidambi Srikanth will hope to begin the new season on a bright note with the Paris Olympic qualification at stake when they start their campaign at the Malaysia Open, the season-opening BWF Super 1000 event in Kuala Lumpur, starting Tuesday.
The world no.8 HS Prannoy, the leading Indian men’s singles player, will be leading the Indian challenge from the front, after having a brilliant season last year, when he won career defining bronze medal at the World Championships and then ended India’s 41-year wait for a men’s singles medal in the Asian Games.
He also ended his six-year-long BWF Tour title drought at the Malaysia Masters Super 500. Prannoy was also the runner-up at the Australia Open Super 500.
The 31-year-old, seeded 8th, will hope to continue his rich vein of form when he opens his campaign against Denmark’s Anders Antonsen in the first round, who made a comeback after a long injury layoff by winning the Korea Open last year.
Eyes on Lakshya and Srikanth
All eyes, however, will be on Lakshya and Srikanth as they fight to get into the top 16 of the Race to Paris – Olympic qualification rankings after enduring contrasting fates last season.
World no. 16 Lakshya’s only glimpse of fiery form came to the fore when he claimed the Canada Open Super 500 in July last year, but since then his form dipped. So much so that Lakshya had to endure a quarter-final defeat to Bharat Raghav at the 85th Senior National Championships.
World no.24 Srikanth, on the other hand, was inconsistent throughout the year. He could not even make it to a single semifinal despite playing four quarterfinals.
At the Malaysia Open, things are not going to be easy for Lakshya and Srikanth as they face tough competitors in China’s Weng Hong Yang and sixth seed Jonatan Christie of Indonesia respectively in the opening rounds.
If Lakshya crosses the first hurdle, China’s third seed Li Shi Feng could be waiting for him in the second round, and Kidambi could face Kanta Tsuneyama.
Title contender: Satwik-Chirag
In the men’s doubles section, second-seeded pair, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy–Chirag Shetty, who made a semifinal finish at the last edition of the Malaysia Open, will look for a solid start to the year when they take on Indonesia’s Muhammad Shohibul Fikri-Bagas Maulana in the first round.
Provided their form last season, it will not be an amplification to say that the duo will be India’s best bet for a title at the prestigious event.
Satwik and Chirag enjoyed a remarkable 2023, emerging by far India’s best-performing shuttlers and pair. They won the Badminton Asia Championships title and Asian Games men’s doubles gold, India’s first title in badminton at the continental showpiece.
They also added three BWF titles to their kitty, winning a maiden Super 1000 event at the Indonesia Open, the Korea Open Super 500 and the Swiss Open Super 300.
In the process, they also attained their career-best ranking of world No.1. No Indian pair in the past could achieve the feat.
However, Satwik-Chirag was unlucky to miss out on qualifying for the season-ending World Tour Finals after a runner-up finish at the China Masters.
In women’s doubles, the pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and Tanisha Crasto will look to make the right moves this season to book a spot for the Paris Olympics. The duo is currently placed 21st in the Olympic Qualification rankings, ahead of Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand, who are at the 27th spot.
The Indian duo had a remarkable end to the 2023 season by reaching the final of Syed Modi International and winning the Guwahati Masters and Odisha Masters in three weeks. They will face USA’s Francesca Corbett and Allison Lee in the opening round.
With two-time Olympic medallist PV Sindhu recovering from a knee injury, none of the other women’s singles players could make the cut. There are also no Indians competing in mixed doubles.
Malaysia Open is one of the four BWF World Tour Super 1000 tournaments, having gained the status last year. All England Championships, China Open and Indonesian Open are the other three in the world circuit.
When and where to watch the Malaysia Open Super 1000 in India?
The Malaysia Open Super 1000 starts on Tuesday. The tournament will be available on BWF’s YouTube channel – BWF TV and the Jio Cinema app and website.