Time for a reality check of Indian badminton

It remains to be seen how many advance to the second round of India Open Super Series. It is often seen that barring P. V. Sindhu and Saina Nehwal, not many survive the third day of the competition.

India will pin its hopes on P.V. Sindhu while Carolina Marin will be a hard nut to crack.   -  PTI

It is time to test the growing faith in the Indian badminton. For those who blindly believe that Indian shuttlers have done enough to be among the leading badminton nations, this week provides an opportunity for reality check.

The main draw action of the annual India Open super series begins at the Siri Fort Complex on Wednesday, with six men and 12 ladies in the singles field.

It remains to be seen how many advance to the second round. It is often seen that barring P. V. Sindhu and Saina Nehwal, not many survive the third day of the competition.

No doubt, Sindhu and Saina, the two Indians to be seeded, should find it easy on the opening day. Sindhu will be up against compatriot Arundhati Pantawane, her teammate in the victorious Chennai Smashers in the Premier Badminton League. Saina, gritty as ever, faces Chinese Taipei’s Chia Hsin Lee, ranked 31 places below at 39th.

The 52nd ranked Rituparna Das also faces a rival from Chinese Taipei, Chiang Mei Hui, placed 22 spots above in world rankings. The third strongest female player in the country is yet post even the odd big win but considering her lack of experience at the highest level, one can hope of better days.

Among the rest, Tanvi Lad, Sri Krishna Priya, Reshma Karthik, comeback-girl P. C. Thulasi, Sai Uttejitha Rao, Shreyanshi Pardarshi and Anura Prabhudesai – all ranked in that order – will have to punch away above their weight to survive the opening day.

The danger of the Indian challenge vanishing too soon into the event cannot be ruled out. Since H. S. Prannoy faces national champion Sourabh Verma, one is sure to reach the second round. Ajay Jayaram runs into third seeded Viktor Alexsen, the Dane who is the highest seed left in the fray after the withdrawal of Lee Chong Wei and Jan O Jorgensen, ranked first and second in the world.

K. Srikanth, once ranked third in the world, faces a tricky qualifier in China’s Zhao Junpeng. In their only previous encounter, Zhao got the better of Srikanth.

Last year’s national champion Sameer Verma has drawn fourth seeded Korean Son Wan Ho while B. Sai Praneeth is lucky to get Japanese qualifier Kenta Nishimoto.

Therefore, there is little to feel optimistic about the Indian challenge.

In the doubles, as Chief coach P. Gopichand puts it, “a lot of work needs to be done.”

In mixed doubles, Pranav Chopra and N. Sikki Reddy need to play to their seeding, of seven, to reach the quarterfinals. The progress of the recently-formed ladies pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and Sikki will also be watched keenly.

In all, the biggest positive is the fact that many pairs have made the doubles’ main draws of the country’s premier international event. But expecting these pairs to progress beyond Day Two is asking for too much.

First-round singles matches involving Indians:

Men: B. Sai Praneeth-Kenta Nishimoto (Japan), Sameer Verma-Son Wan Ho (Korea); H. S. Prannoy-Sourabh Verma; Ajay Jayaram-Viktor Axelsen (Denmark); K. Srikanth-Zhao Junpeng (China).

Women: Rituparna Das-Chiang Mei Hui (Chinese Taipei); P. C. Thulasi-Akane Yamaguchi (Japan); Sai Uttejitha Rao-Lyanny Alexandra Mainaky (Indonesia); Tanvi Lad-Nozomi Okuhara (Japan); Anura Prabhudesai-Sayaka Sato (Japan); Saina Nehwal-Chia Hsin Lee (Chinese Taipie); Rasika Raje-Saena Kawakami (Japan); P. V. Sindhu-Arundhati Pantawane; Reshma Karthik-Zhang Yiman (China); Shreyanshi Pardeshi-Lina Zetchiri (Bulgaria); Sri Krishna Priya-Sung Ji Hyun (Korea).