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Badminton

How the postponed India Open impacts Saina and Srikanth's Olympic qualification?

Here, we look at how both Srikanth and Nehwal have fared in the Tokyo Olympics qualifiers and how the postponement of Indian Open affects the veteran duo.

How the postponed India Open impacts Saina and Srikanths Olympic qualification?
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By

Abhijit Nair

Published: 21 April 2021 12:30 PM GMT

The second wave of the coronavirus pandemic has hit India very badly. The entire nation is living under fear as the healthcare sector is on the verge of collapsing.

Under such circumstances, the Badminton Association of India (BAI) in consultation with the Badminton World Federation (BWF) decided to postpone the Indian Open Super 500 which was to be held in the country during the month of May.

The Indian Open was one of the last three Tokyo Olympic qualification tournaments, and with the sudden postponement the players have been left in a lurch.

There will be 38 singles players in each gender in Tokyo Olympics, In each singles a nation may have a maximum of 2 players, provided both are ranked in the top 16 in Ranking list to be published on 15 June 2021 by BWF. With Sai Praneeth and PV Sindhu likely to be the top ranked indian shuttlers currently ranked at 13th and 7th respectively in the Race to Tokyo, Kidambi Srikanth and Saina Nehwal, who are ranked number 20th and 22nd in the Race to Tokyo, seem to be the most vulnerable to miss out on an Olympic appearance amongst the high-profile players.

While Srikanth termed the postponement 'unfair', Nehwal's husband, Parupalli Kashyap, wondered 'whether the equity amongst the athletes would be maintained' in a chat with ESPN.

Here, we look at how both Srikanth and Nehwal have fared in the Tokyo Olympics qualifiers and how the postponement of Indian Open affects the veteran duo.

Srikanth in Tokyo Olympic qualifiers

Kidambi Srikanth became the toast of the nation when he reached the World Number 1 ranking, albeit for just a week, in the year 2018. He was just the third Indian and first Indian man to reach the top of single's ranking since Prakash Padukone achieved the feat in 1980.

But, things have not really gone in the favour of the 28 year old since then as he finds his Tokyo Olympic chances hanging by a thread.

The first Olympic qualifying tournament which Srikanth played was the Indonesian Open in July 2019, where he crashed out in the round of 16. He has not reached a single final since then and finds himself in a big mess.

Kidambi Srikanth's performances in Tokyo Olympics qualifying tournaments

Event

Position

Indonesian Open 2019

Round 2

Japan Open 2019

Round 1

Thailand Open 2019

Round 2

World Championships 2019

Round 2

Denmark Open 2019

Round 1

French Open 2019

Round 1

Hong Kong Open 2019

Semifinals

Korea Masters 2019

Round 2

Syed Modi International Badminton Championship 2019

Quarterfinals

Malaysia Masters 2020

Round 1

Indonesia Masters 2020

Round 1

Thailand Masters 2020

Round 1

Badminton Asia Championships 2020

2 wins out of 3

Barcelona Spain Masters

Round 2

All England Open 2020

Round 1

Swiss Open 2021

Semifinals

Orleans Masters 2021

Quarterfinals

Since the start of Olympic qualification cycle in the April 2019, Kidambi Srikanth competed in a total of 17 tournaments accumulating 59829.429 points. During the course of qualification period, Srikanth has a won just 50% of his games. Considering the 10 best results that contribute to Race to Tokyo Rankings he has 42989 points.

Having played his first Olympic qualification tournament in July 2019 to the recently concluded Orleans Masters in March 2021, the former world number 1 has tasted wins in just 17 of the 34 matches he played. This pretty much sums up as to why Srikanth finds himself struggling to breathe just before the Olympics.

Saina in Tokyo Olympic qualifiers

The first real female badminton superstar from India, Saina Nehwal has been enduring a torrid run in the international circuit since quite few years.

The 31 year old's first Tokyo Olympic qualification tournament was the New Zealand Open 2019 where she crashed out in the very first round. Her best performance since then has been the semifinal finish at the recently concluded Orleans Masters, which probably explains why her Olympic chances look bleak at the moment.

Saina Nehwal's performances in the Tokyo Olympics qualifying tournaments

Event

Position

New Zealand Open 2019

Round 1

Sudirman Cup 2019

Lost the only match played

Thailand Open 2019

Round 2

World Championships 2019

Round 2

China Open 2019

Round 1

Korea Open 2019

Round 1

Denmark Open 2019

Round 1

French Open 2019

Quarterfinals

China Open 2019

Round 1

Hong Kong Open 2019

Round 1

Malaysia Masters 2020

Quarterfinals

Indonesia Masters 2020

Round 1

Thailand Masters 2020

Round 1

Barcelona Spain Masters 2020

Quarterfinals

All England Open 2020

Round 1

Swiss Open 2021

Round 1

Orleans Masters 2021

Semifinals

Much like Srikanth, Saina Nehwal too has played a total of 17 tournaments during the Tokyo Olympics qualification cycle which started in April 2019 and has earned a total of
57367.4134 points. Considering the 10 best results that contribute to Race to Tokyo Rankings she has 43037 points.

The 2012 London Olympics bronze medallist played a total of 28 matches during this time and won just 11 of those with a poor 39.2% win percentage. This more or less perfectly encapsulates as to why Nehwal is ranked as low as 22 in the Race to Tokyo.

How does the postponement of Indian Open 2021 affect Srikanth and Nehwal?

A below-par show so far since the Olympic qualifiers started has put both Kidambi Srikanth and Saina Nehwal in a lurch. With their Tokyo dream hanging by a thread, they need to play as many tournaments as possible to accumulate points required to break into the top 16 in Race to Tokyo Rankings.

The Indian Open was supposed to be the third last qualification tournament before the Olympics starts, and one could understand why both the players were upset following the tournament.

Though the Indian Open has just been delayed and not cancelled altogether as of now, previous experience states otherwise. The tournament was postponed in 2020 as well due to the pandemic, but was later scrapped completely by the BAI and BWF.

What lies ahead for Srikanth and Nehwal?

With the Asian Championships already called off, the cancellation of Indian Open entirely would mean that both, Kidambi Srikanth and Saina Nehwal, only have the Malaysian Open and Singapore Open to look forward to.

A strong performance in both these tournaments is the only way Srikanth and Nehwal could make it to the Olympics. On the other hand, if they falter it would surely be the end of their Tokyo Olympics dream.


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