BWF World Tour Finals 2022: H.S. Prannoy carries India’s hope in season finale

Prannoy played an aggressive brand of badminton this year. He did not win any titles, but his ability to upset the big guns makes him the one to watch out for.

FILE PHOTO: H.S. Prannoy plays a return shot against Zhao Junpeng of China during the men’s singles quarterfinal match at the BWF World Badminton Championships in Tokyo on August 26, 2022. 

FILE PHOTO: H.S. Prannoy plays a return shot against Zhao Junpeng of China during the men’s singles quarterfinal match at the BWF World Badminton Championships in Tokyo on August 26, 2022.  | Photo Credit: AFP

Prannoy played an aggressive brand of badminton this year. He did not win any titles, but his ability to upset the big guns makes him the one to watch out for.

H.S. Prannoy is the lone Indian shuttler in the BWF World Tour Finals 2022 after decorated women’s singles specialist P.V. Sindhu pulled out of the event as she continues her recovery from a hamstring injury suffered in the Commonwealth Games.

The season-ending event - which has been shifted from Guangzhou, China, due to the rise in Covid-19 infection- will be held in Bangkok from December 7-11.

Ranked third in the Race to Finals, Prannoy earned direct qualification to the season finale for the first time in his career on the back of an outstanding season, which saw him playing a vital role in India’s Thomas Cup victory. Only the top eight players on the world tour can qualify for the tournament.

Such has been the dominance of defending champion Viktor Axelsen in the World Tour calendar that he will start as an outright favourite in the men’s singles. The Dane shuttler swept the season, claiming an overwhelming 39-match winning streak - a world record in the discipline - and five Super Series titles.

Yet, the field could produce surprises with players like Chou Tien Chen, Jonatan Christie, Anthony Ginting, and Loh Kean Yew featuring in the event.

Also Read | Full list of players participating in the BWF World Tour Finals 2022

However, Prannoy could be a dark horse. He played an aggressive brand of badminton this year. He did not win any titles, but his ability to produce upset wins makes him the one to watch out for.

Unlike men’s singles, the women’s singles field has no clear favourite, with none able to thump complete authority over the season.

Defending champion An Se Young, world champion Akane Yamaguchi, Olympic champion Chen Yufei and He Bingjiao, who claimed Denmark Open and French Open titles, are all strong contenders. Tai Tzu Ying and Ratchanok Intanon might not have had a great season, but their past years’ achievements will keep them in contention.

In men’s doubles, French Open-winning Indian pair Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Chirag Shetty missed the cut by a whisker as they dropped crucial points early in the season due to injuries.

In Bangkok, the Indonesian combo of Fajar Alfian-Muhammad Ardianto will be the favourite. But other pairs are not too far behind, with Mohammad Ahsan-Hendra Setiawan, Liu Yu Chen-Ou Xuan Yi, Choi Sol Gyu-Kim Won Ho, Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik, Kim Astrup-Anders Skaarup Rasmussen and Takuro Hoki-Yugo Kobayashi also staking a claim.

But, in this field, all eyes will be on Malaysia’s rising duo Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi. They have not won any title this year, but they will like to ride on their recent runner-up finish at the Australian Open to make a mark in the prestigious event.

Women’s doubles, meanwhile, promises to be an interesting field, with new faces disrupting the ranking.

In the top 10, the top three pairs – Jeong Na Eun-Kim Hye Jeong, Zhang Shu Xian-Zheng Yu and Benyapa Aimsaard-Nuntakarn Aimsaard – have played their maiden season on the World Tour only this year and emerged as title contenders for the BWF World Tour Finals by the end of it.

However, Pearly Tan-Thinaah Muralitharan - who claimed their maiden Super Series title at the French Open only recently - will be the favourite on paper.

Like men’s singles, mixed doubles promises to be an uneven field. World No. 1 and top seed Zheng Siwei-Huang Ya Qiong won nine of their 13 events this year. It will be tough for other pairs to beat them.

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