2019 China Open: History of India at the tournament
Ever since 2007, when China Open became a BWF Super Series, the Indian shuttlers launched off with scratchy showdowns before a spectacular revamp post-2012.
It has been a little over a fortnight since the country exalted uproariously when P V Sindhu finally laid her hands on gold and crowned herself as the World Champion. While the stupor of this fairytale win at the BWF World Championships is beginning to fade, there is yet another dream beginning to form. In a season of lasts, the final BWF World Tour Super 1000 event is impatiently knocking on the door. Scheduled to roll out from the 17th of September and to conclude on the 22nd, in Changzhou, the China Open is next on the to-do list of Indian shuttlers.
Inducted as a Super 1000 event in the September of 2018, the China Open has occupied a special berth in the BWF calendar of Indian players. Initially known as the China Open Super Series Premier, it has been the hallowed grounds for several reasons. No other Super Series Premier event has been the most productive outing for the Indian shuttlers as they have bagged three gold medals on the turf of the Olympic Sports Center Xincheng Gymnasium. Ever since 2007, when this tournament became a part of the BWF Super Series, the Indian shuttlers launched off with scratchy showdowns before a spectacular revamp post-2012.
From scratchy start to resurgence
In 2007, Indian badminton was undergoing a transition phase, and one still groped in the dark for reliable names to bring home a medal. However, the lacklustre performances and the abundance of first and second-round exits had put India off the medals radar for the first few years. In 2008, an inspired Arvind Bhat ploughed into the quarter-finals of the China Open before being ousted by eventual finalist, Wen Kai, in straight games. A period of lull set in after this and it was not before 2012 that the streaks of a resurgence in Indian badminton began to spark again.
The harbinger of this change came from the men's singles department with Parupalli Kashyap entering the quarters in 2012 before losing to Wang Zhengming. Onward from that, Kashyap lost in the second round to ace shuttler Kento Momota in 2013. Saina Nehwal and Arundhati Pantawane also made it to the second round stage that year. It was in 2014 however that India struck a pot of gold with both Kidambi Srikanth and Saina Nehwal claiming the title for themselves.
The trio turning fortunes for India
Lady Luck had finally shone on the Indian contingent, with Srikanth delivering a mesmerizing performance alongside Nehwal, who was soaring in her form. While Srikanth handed arch-nemesis Kento Momota a straight-game defeat in the quarters and briefly sidestepped Germany's Mark Zwiebler, Srikanth rallied against Lin Dan in a tense clash, to bag the title. Saina Nehwal, too, put up a spectacular performance against Akane Yamaguchi in the finals to claim the Super Series Premier title!
Ever since then, India has made China Open their hunting ground for new glories with the badminton force growing from strength to strength in the country. In 2015, Nehwal once again made it to the Finals but failed to defend her title, losing to Xuerui Li. By 2016, P V Sindhu was ready to share the reins of control in the women's half with Saina, and a domineering performance against Sung Ji-hyun landed her in the finals against Sun Yu, where Sindhu called every shot to win a gold for herself. On the other hand, Ajay Jayaram had also made it to the quarters in 2016 before falling to Chen Long.
After a hat-trick of finale appearances by the women from 2014 to 2016, there has been a slight dip in the results yet again. Sindhu has been fairly consistent with quarter-final breakthroughs in both 2017 and 2018. 2018 is still a sore reminder of Sindhu's loss against Chen Yufei, but the newly crowned World Champion should not be deterred by this fact for she has emerged triumphant against the Chinese in Basel itself. Kidambi Srikanth has been undergoing a rough patch in his career currently and his defeat in the quarters against Kento Momota in 2018 will have to wait another year to be avenged because of a knee-injury constraint keeping him out of the tournament this year.
There are expectations galore from the Indian contingent headed to Jiangsu to play in the China Open. Given the recent success and stellar form of P V Sindhu, all eyes will be locked on the lanky Hyderabadi to pull off another remarkable win. After having narrowly missed out on a Super 1000 title in Indonesia earlier this year, Sindhu is hungry and entirely capable of winning it in China. Nehwal will also be hoping to find her form back and unleash her dominance on the Chinese turf. On the men's front, Sameer Verma will be expected to lead the charge for the Indians. With the pressure mounting on the Indian shuttlers, it will be interesting to observe if they can better their three gold medals and one silver performance, in this year's stint at the China Open and plant more deeply the dominance of Indian badminton on the BWF calendar.