By Kaushik Kumar
New Delhi, March 17 (IANS) The initial few months of 2019 haven’t gone well for the Indian shuttlers as the likes of P.V. Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, Kidambi Srikant and Parupalli Kashyap have failed to reproduce the magic they have shown in the last couple of seasons.
With the Indian shuttlers proving their mettle on the world stage, a lot was expected from them this year as well. But the start has left a lot to be desired as most of them have disappointed the fans after faltering in the first few tournaments this year.
In the three major tournaments held this year, Saina bagged the Indonesia Masters’ title as a knee injury forced Olympic champion Carolina Marin to withdraw from the big final. Marin was dominating the contest 10-4 before hurting her knee and that saw Saina benefit even though it looked at one stage that she would have been on the receiving end.
In the other two tournaments — the All England Open Badminton Championships and Malaysia Masters — Saina suffered defeats in the quarters and semis respectively.
Sindhu had ended the last year on a positive note as she defeated the then world number seven Nozomi Okuhara from Japan in the BWF World Tour Finals in Guangzhou on December 16, becoming the first player from India to win the tournament.
The Rio Olympic silver medallist, however, failed to carry the momentum this year as she lost to Marin in the quarters of the Indonesia Masters before being knocked out in the opening round of the All England.
The scenario is pretty much similar for the men shuttlers too, as the two big names — Parupalli Kashyap and Kidambi Srikanth — also seem to follow the same path.
Kashyap had a poor outing in the three major tournaments as he lost in the Round of 16 on a couple of occasions — Spain Masters and Malaysia Masters. At the Indonesia Open, the 32-year-old faced an early exit after going down in the qualifiers.
Srikanth on the other hand, has performed slightly better after managing to reach the quarters of the three tournaments this year. He, however, has faltered in the knockout games, failing to puch his journey ahead.
Despite these disappointments, the top Indian shuttlers have a chance to leave the dismal memories behind and regain their form when the India Open kicks-off here from March 26.
The shuttlers will surely enjoy playing in front of their home crowd, a factor which has always been a motivating force behind any player in any sporting discipline.
All eyes will be on Sindhu, who had won the 2017 edition and was the runners-up of the 2018 edition. Srikanth and Saina will also spearhead the Indian challenge in the championship.
In women’s singles for India, Sindhu is seeded second while compatriot Saina has been seeded fifth.A
Apart from them, other shuttlers like Sameer Verma, Sai Praneeth, H.S. Prannoy and Subhankar Dey will also hope to utilise the home advantage and give the Indian badminton fans a reason to cheer.
(Kaushik Kumar can be contacted at [email protected]ans.in)