All England C’ships: In-form duo of Satwik and Chirag at forefront as Indians chase glory

Hopes will be high on French Open champions Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty to end India’s 23-year-old title drought at the All England Championships as they lead the country’s charge in the tournament.

Published : Mar 11, 2024 13:57 IST , Birmingham - 4 MINS READ

Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy.
Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy. | Photo Credit: Getty Images

Newly-crowned French Open champions Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty will be expected to continue their rich vein of form, while the seasoned P V Sindhu will hope to ace a trial by fire to end India’s 23-year-old title drought at the All England Championships starting here on Tuesday.

Prakash Padukone (1980) and Pullela Gopichand (2001) were the last Indians to claim the title with Saina Nehwal (2015) and Lakshya Sen (2022) being the only ones to come close when they finished runner-ups.

The prestigious tournament holds an iconic status in India but over the years its exclusivity has somewhat dwindled as it is now one of the four Super 1000 event on the international calendar.

Satwik and Chirag have already won a Super 1000 title in Indonesia last year and given their stellar run this season, expectations would be at a record high when the two towering shuttlers take the court this week, following their exploits at Paris on Sunday night.

Satwik and Chirag, the Asian Games champions, have bossed over their opponents this season, reaching three finals -- Malaysia Super 1000, and India Super 750 before winning at Paris and will remain India’s biggest hopes of a title finish at the Utilita Arena Birmingham here.

Standing in front of them in the opening round will be the veteran Indonesian pair of Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan, the three-time world champions, who has left the Indians with a lot of heartbreaks in the past.

The ‘Daddies’ had defeated Satwik and Chirag the last time they faced in the French Open last year and the Indians will be etching for revenge.

If they cross the opening hurdle, the Indian duo is likely to face the Malaysian pair of Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik, who has proved to be a nemesis for them but the Indians had defeated them thrice in the last three meetings.

Sindhu will also face an acid test this week with world no. 1 and top seed Korean An Se Young lined up in the second round is the Indian tames Germany’s Yvonne Li, against whom she has a 2-0 record.

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Sindhu has shown that she has recovered well from the left knee injury that left her on the sidelines for four months before her campaign in the French Open last week.

With the legendary Padukone by her side, Sindhu matched Olympic champion Chen Yu Fei before marginally falling short in the quarterfinals in Paris.

The 68-year-old Indian will also be a constant source of inspiration for Lakshya Sen, who received a big boost in his race for Olympic qualification with a semifinal finish at the French Open last week.

Sen will be up against Malaysia’s Ng Tze Yong with a likely clash with fourth seed Dane Anders Antonsen standing in the second round.

World no. 7 HS Prannoy had made the semifinal of the India Open but bowed out in the first round last week and will hope to go deep in the draw this week after opening against Chinese Taipei’s Su Li Yang.

Kidambi Srikanth, who is racing against time to make the cut for Paris, however, will have to play out of his skin as he faces top seed and world no 1 Viktor Axelsen in the opening round, while young Priyanshu Rajawat will have to fight it out against Indonesia’s Chico Aura Dwi Wardoyo.

The women’s doubles pair of Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand, who has done well in Birmingham having reached back-to-back semifinals in the last two years, will open against the Indonesian combination of Apriyani Rahayu and Siti Fadia Silva Ramadhanti.

Tanisha Crasto and Ashwini Ponnappa too have been in good touch and will be up against Hong Kong’s Yeung Nga Ting and Yeung Pui Lam in the opening round.

The two Indian women’s doubles pairs are fighting for a Paris Olympics spot.

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