Genia D’Cunha3 minutes of reading
The Malaysia Masters 2023, which will begin with the qualifiers on Tuesday, is an important tournament for Indian badminton players, with the Olympic qualification cycle already underway.
The Super 500 tournament is the first in the first five weeks of the BWF Tour. After last week’s Sudirman Cup disappointment, the next five weeks give the Indians a chance to build some momentum, pile up crucial ranking points and get a head start on the road to Paris.
All India’s singles stars PV Sindhu, HS Pranai and Lakshya Sen will play in Malaysia. India also had a sizeable group in the singles qualifiers, with Ashmita Saliha and Malavika Bansod making it to the main draw starting on Wednesday. However, the draws are not very loving and their shape is very irregular.
Also, there will be no doubles representation due to the last-minute withdrawal of fifth seeds Satviksairaj Rangritty and Chirag Shetty and no one will register in the women’s and mixed doubles.
Here’s the lowdown on the Indians’ balance and prospects this week:
Women are single
PV Sindhu vs Lyne Christopherson
Agarshi Kashyap vs Akane Yamaguchi
Ashmita Saliha vs Han Yu
Malavika Banchod vs Wang Ji Yi
PV Sindhu, who is currently ranked 11th, could make a deep run with a relatively easy draw this time as she is ranked sixth. He lost both of his matches in the Sudirman Cup last week but produced one of his best performances since returning from a five-month injury layoff. He has won the Malaysia Masters twice in 2013 and 2016 and will be hoping it will be a happy hunting ground again.
Sindhu opens against Denmark’s Laine Kristofferson, the world number 28, against whom she has a 4-0 record. In the second round, he will play the winner of Aya Ohori vs Lalinrad Saiwan. His first Test will be in the quarter-finals, with Chang Yi Man or Ratsanok Intanon likely to be the contenders.
All other Indians will face the top seed in the opening game.
Saina Nehwal pulled out of another tournament and was replaced by Akarshi Kashyap, who now faces the unenviable task of playing world No. 1 and top seed Akane Yamaguchi. Team India has lost only one match so far.
Ashmita Saliha will take on fourth seed Han Yu (1-0) and Malavika Banchod will take on second seed Wang Ji Yi (1-0).
Men are single
HS Pranai vs Chow Thien Sen
Lakshya Sen vs Lo Keen Yu
Kidambi Srikanth vs Toma Junior Popov
Indian men’s singles players’ fortunes continue to be tough with not a single seed in the draw.
India’s highest ranked player H.S. Pranai (ranked world No. 7 last week) will face sixth-seeded Chou Tien of Chinese Taipei for the second time in as many weeks. India are 3-6 in the head-to-head and lost to him in the Sudirman Trophy last week. If he wins, he will next face All England Open champion Li Shi Feng. Jonathon Christie is another player in the quarter.
Lakshya Sen will open his campaign against former world champion seventh seed Lo Keen Yew. However, the Indian, now ranked 22nd in the world, has a perfect record of 4-3 against Singapore. He may next face Hong Kong’s Ng Ka Long Angus with second seed Anthony Sinisuka in the Jinting division.
Srikanth has a relatively easy opener against France’s Thomas Jr. Bobo, against whom he leads 2-1. If he advances, he will face the winner of Kanda Tsuneyama and eighth seed Kunlaut Vidicharn. This part of the draw is world no. 1 Victor Axelsen.
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