The top Indian shuttlers will return to badminton action this week as the Malaysia Masters 2020 gets underway in Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday. Leading India’s charge at the first Super 500 tournament of the year are PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Chirag Shetty among others.
Sindhu, Saina face tough draw
All eyes will obviously be on Sindhu who had a largely inconsistent year in 2019. The top-ranked Indian enjoyed a dream run at the World Championships in Basel where she went on to lift the title but failed to get going elsewhere. Following her disappointing early exit from the season-ending World Tour Finals last month, Sindhu will be keen to roar back to form in the first tournament of the Olympic year.
She is, after all, one of the favourites to win a medal at the Tokyo Games and a good start to the year will only boost her confidence. The draw, however, has not been too favourable for the World No. 6. Sindhu faces Evgeniya Kosetskaya of Russia in the first round. If she advances to the quarters, she is likely to face World No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying.
Saina is the only other Indian in the women's singles draw. In the first round, the 29-year-old shuttler will take on a qualifier. But in the second round, she is poised to face 17-year-old An Se Young, who recently beat her in last year's French Open.
Sai Praneeth, Srikanth, Prannoy to lead men's singles charge
Moving over to men's singles, a host of Indian stars are set to take the court at the Axiata Arena. B Sai Praneeth, who finished the year as the highest-ranked Indian, will face Denmark's Rasmus Gemke in the first round.
Kidambi Srikanth, who has decided to not take part in the fifth season of Premier Badminton League (PBL) to be fit and focussed ahead of the Olympics, has a tough task ahead of him as he has been drawn to face second seed Chou Tien Chen of Chinese Taipei in the first round.
Sameer Verma will face Thailand's Kantaphon Wangcharoen in the first round, while HS Prannoy will meet Japan's Kanta Tsuneyama. Former Commonwealth champion Parupalli Kashyap, who seemed to be getting back to his best shape last season, will face top seed and world number one Kento Momota of Japan in the first round.
Can Satwik-Chirag continue their dream run?
Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, India's most consistent shuttlers of last year, will be hoping to scale new heights this year. They face their first challenge in the form of local shuttlers Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi. Having broken into the World top-10 and reached the finals of a Super 750 tournament in 2019, it will be interesting to see what the young duo can achieve this year.
Ashwini Ponnappa, who was planning a comeback from injury, tweeted about her withdrawal in last moment due to calf injury.
On the other hand, Sikki and Pranaav Jerry Chopra will meet world number one Zheng Si Wei and Huang Ya Qiong.