Sindhu, Srikanth look to turn the tide at BWF World Tour Finals

P. V. Sindhu and K. Srikanth need to shrug off their lacklustre performances in the last two weeks as they gear up for the World Tour Finals.

K. Srikanth and P. V. Sindhu. - K. MURALI KUMAR

P. V. Sindhu and K. Srikanth need to shrug off their lacklustre performances of the last two weeks as they gear up for the highly-competitive HSBC BWF World Tour Finals which begin here on Wednesday.

World champion and Olympic silver medallist Sindhu, who had won the prestigious title in 2018, has been clubbed in Group ‘B’ alongside top-ranked Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei and home favourites Ratchanok Intanon and Pornpawee Chochuwong.

Sindhu’s comeback to international badminton after the coronavirus-induced break was not as good as she would have expected. She couldn’t go the distance after losing a close opening match in Thailand Open, the first of the Asia leg. And in the second event last week, Sindhu suffered a demoralising straight-game defeat against former world champion Ratchanok in the quarterfinals.

Sindhu, who has been training in London for the last few weeks, will have to gather herself as she opens her campaign against Tzu Ying, who reached the finals in both the Thailand Opens.

Former World No. 1 Srikanth, on the other hand, has been clubbed in Group ‘B’ with Denmark’s Anders Antonsen, Chinese Taipei’s Wang Tzu Wei and Hong Kong’s NG Ka Long Angus.

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Srikanth, who had reached the semifinals of BWF Super Series Masters Finals in 2014, couldn’t spend enough time on the court. He pulled out of the first Thailand Open ahead of the second round due to a calf muscle pull, while he was forced to withdraw after the opening round last week after his room-mate B Sai Praneeth tested positive for COVID-19.

Placed 17th in the Road to Bangkok Final ranking after the first event, Sindhu jumped to No. 10 after a quarterfinal finish last week and qualified for the season finale due to two rules laid down by the BWF.

First, only two players from a nation can make it to the singles draw, which ruled out Thailand’s Busanan Ongbamrungphan as higher-ranked Rathchanok and Pornpawee made the cut. The second one was the week-long mandatory quarantine period for players, which ruled out Chinese and Japanese players as they had withdrawn from the Asia leg due to COVID-19.

Into the top eight

Srikanth was rewarded for his quarterfinal finish at Denmark Open Super 750 last October as he sneaked into the top eight and managed to maintain his position despite playing just the first rounds in the last two events.

The Indian duo will have a tough task taming their rivals in the tournament, going by their recent performances and head-to-head records. Sindhu has a dismal 5-15 record against Tzu Ying, who beat Sindhu in their last two meetings, while Ratchanok humiliated her last week in a lop-sided quarterfinal to enjoy a 5-4 record.

Against Pornpawee, her third opponent in the group, Sindhu has a 3-1 record but the Thai defeated Sindhu in their last clash in 2019.

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In men’s singles, Srikanth beat his first-round opponent Anderson in 2017 but the Danish is a far more improved player now, having reached the World No. 3.

Against Wang, whom he plays next, Srikanth has a 3-0 record, while he holds a 2-2 head-to-head count against Angus.

The delayed season finale, with a prize money of USD 1.5 million, features only the top players in men’s and women’s singles and eight pairs in the three double events, divided into group stages. It will be followed by the knockout, with the top two players/pairs from each group making it to the semifinals.

The draw for the group stage was conducted in Bangkok on Tuesday by BWF and Badminton Association of Thailand (BAT) officials while observing COVID-19 protocols.