2019 China Open: Predicting India's medal tally
With spells of dynamism and sporting fever refusing to grow feeble, it is hard to overlook the string of India’s brightest prospects ahead of the quadrennial event.
The Olympic Sports Center Gymnasium is all set for its tryst with the high-powered and cacophonous badminton extravaganza, as the prestigious Super 1000 level event, VICTOR China Open gets underway in Changzhou, Jiangsu on September 17. With spells of dynamism and sporting fever refusing to grow feeble, it is hard to overlook the string of India’s brightest prospects ahead of the quadrennial event.
Truth be told, the recently concluded BWF World Championship in Basel, Switzerland pushed open a window to what badminton in the Indian context, in its decade of a resurgence, has come to bank on its ever-growing crop of dexterous players. The Indian star shuttlers will look forward to going in with a renewed spirit when they take on their global counterparts to stake their claim as a badminton powerhouse. India will be represented by P V Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, Ashwini Ponnappa, Sikki Reddy, Sai Praneeth, Chirag Shetty, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Pranaav Jerry Chopra, Parupalli Kashyap, Sameer Verma, Manu Attri, and Sumeeth Reddy.
The event will witness top shuttlers from around the world for top honours with the Japanese privileged with an unassailable lead in terms of rankings in both the men’s and women’s singles events. Japan will blow its trumpets on All England Open Champion Kento Momota and women’s top seed Akane Yamaguchi, but we are not afar. The mighty Indian squad, peppered with big names and experienced contenders, is set to create history with a record haul. P V Sindhu will continue to remain the cynosure of all eyes looking to press on with her winning momentum, while a taciturn Saina Nehwal will be hoping to make amends this time after voluntarily pulling out of the Chinese Taipei Open tournament held earlier this month.
The story of 2018 has been one of diminishing returns for Indian singles badminton. There were ample appearances of promise, one may faintly recollect. Some realised while some belied. The hope refused to fade out, as did the belief. Maybe a gold, or silver, or maybe an unprecedented double-digit tally. The optimistic belief in no time faded to a faint glimmer. Despite showing signs of recovery, the Indian contingent couldn’t find a chink in their opponents' armour and ended its campaign, on a relatively rough terrain.
In the upturn of events for Indian badminton, one readily agrees to men and women singles being operated on divergent levels. In women’s singles, both P V Sindhu and Saina Nehwal have marched several steps ahead of their male counterparts to climb newer heights in the badminton ecosystem, where the duo have been top draws, competing to earn titles. Saina became the first Indian woman to bag silver in the singles event at the World Championship in 2015, followed by a bronze medal in the 2017 World Championship. The trump card belonged to the Hyderabad-native between the years 2009 and 2016 when she boasted of ranking in the top ten.
Her compatriot Sindhu has been a fixture in the place for an outstretched amount of time. Her game is defined by her reach, characterised by an impact beyond measure --- and physically, she looks admirably fit. The expectations will be sky-high, but nothing will quite seem to faze the current BWF World Champion title holder. India will rest its gold medal hopes on her, and that seems to be the safest bet. Saina is, however, as unpredictable as ever. But despite inadvertent streaks of dubiousness, one finds considerable weight in the fact that Saina is a force to be reckoned with. Comparing the current depth of the women’s singles squad with the earlier, anything other than gold will yield a surprising result.
The men’s side, on the other hand, is far from seeing a similar impact. But it has scored, speaking in terms of depth. Moreover, the grip of Indian men when faced against global powers, seems to be tightening than ever. With the likes of Kidambi, Praneeth, or a gritty Sameer Verma, Indian men have made giant strides in the recent past. The side is yet to be privileged with a Saina or a Sindhu, a player who calmly settles at the business end on not one, but multiple occasions. With Srikanth and Prannoy missing in the fray, let us be hopeful of the Sameer Verma-spearheaded side planting their dominance deep on the China Open calendar.
Malaysia has that extra edge over Indian pairs in doubles, and yes, one may splutter cries of familiarity at this juncture. Despite being an arduous task for our doubles teams to top the podium, who knows if we can pull off a surprise! The best bet, however, lies in the pairing of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy. With an eye on the coveted gold medal, the duo looks confident of adding a few more dimensions to their game. Another Thailand Open in the making, who knows?
Players at the top of their triumph or defeat are subject to a given tournament, or precisely, one day -- based on their current form, or the kind of routined training they undergo. In a competitive age like ours, the winner is almost always the one peaking at the right time and in the right direction. It will be interesting to note how many of these promising figures in Indian badminton will be able enough to better the silver and bronze medals into the coveted yellow metal.