New Delhi, March 13 (IANS) The prestigious All England Open Badminton Championship is all set to start on March 14, where the top badminton players from around the world will gather here at the Utilita Arena for one of the most prestigious trophies.
With 155 matches and over 50 hours of badminton action to enjoy, the Championships will serve up to six days from March 16-20 with plenty of intriguing ties on offer. A total of 128 singles competitors and 96 teams are competing in the event.
From the Indian perspective, so far only two Indians have won the All-England Open since it started in 1899.
Prakash Padukone was the first Indian to win the men’s singles title in 1980. Pullela Gopichand became the second to clinch the coveted trophy in 2001. Saina Nehwal and Lakshya Sen, however, came close but ended up as the runners-up in 2015 and 2022, respectively.
Indian shuttlers had not the best start of the year as the top players have not been up to the mark with two-time Olympic medallist PV Sindhu gradually making comeback from injury and Satwikaairaj Rankireddy getting injured.
Though India have clinched the bronze at the Asian Mixed team event bronze, it is hard to predict what will be India’s chances at the prestigious event with a tricky draw, where none of the Indian singles players are seeded.
All eyes will be on last year’s finalist Lakshya Sen, who will begin his campaign against fifth seed Taipei shuttler Chou Tien Chen, against whom he is yet to register a win. If he gets past the first-round hurdle, Sen will meet the winner of all Dane contests between Anders Antonsen and Rasmus Gemke, with Indonesia’s Anthony Sinisuka Ginting as his potential quarterfinal opponent.
Sen could have a face-off with HS Prannoy, which will be their eighth meeting in the last one year, as the latter has been drawn in the same quarter as Sen. But first, Prannoy has to face Wang Tzu Wei in the opening round, with a potential second-round against Ginting.
Another Indian, Kidambi Srikanth starts against Popov and has a potential clash with Japanese seventh seed Kodai Naraoka in the second round. If Shrikanth manages to move at Popov and Noaraoka, then he will have a potential quarterfinal face-off with defending champion Lee Zii Jia.
Sindhu had a forgetful start of the year after returning from a five-month injury layoff. Considered as a Player of major event, Sindhu hasn’t reached the All-England final in her career so far.
The ace shuttler begins against Zhang Yi Man. If she wins, she will play fifth seed and familiar foe He Bing Jiao, whom she defeated in Tokyo Olympics in a bronze medal match.
The Third seed Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei, who stopped Sindhu to reach her second successive Olympic final in Tokyo, is the other seed in this quarter, and there will be a potential quarterfinal clash between the two shuttlers.
The 2015 finalist, Nehwal, will begin against China’s Han Yue, who has a 3-1 record against the Indian. A win will set up a clash against sixth seed Wang Zhi Yi.
Big-game players Satwik and Chirag Shetty are India’s biggest hope in the event. The sixth-seeded Indian are drawn to begin against Marcus Fernaldi
Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo but ‘the Minions’ has pulled out of the tournament as Sukamuljo has yet to recover from a bout of dengue.
After their withdrawal, one of French duo Lucas Corvee-Ronan Labar and Indian pair Krishna Prasad Garaga-Vishnuvardhan Goud Panjala will likely step up from the reserves to face Satwik and Chirag.
If the duo reaches the second round, they will likely play India Open champions Liang Weikeng and Wang Chang, with reigning world champions Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik of Malaysia waiting in the quarterfinal.
The other Indians in the draw are MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila, who will face China’s Ren Xiang Yu and Tan Qiang, a pair they have never played before. A win could see them take on fifth seeds Liu Yu Chen and Ou Xuan Yi.
Teenage pair Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand got major breakthrough in their career last year in All England as they entered the semifinal after being promoted from the reserves.
This year, the world No 19 pair have a tricky draw as they will begin against seventh seeds Thai pair Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Rawinda Prajongjai.
The pair may stage an upset as they have built up a good momentum in the last one month. They were unbeaten at the Badminton Asia Mixed Team Championship with wins over Malaysians Pearly Tan-Thinaah Muralitharan and also won the national championship.
Ashwini Bhat and Shikha Gautam are the other Indian pair in the draw, who start against Baek Ha Na and Lee So Hee, who they are playing for the first time. If they win, they will be up against second seeds Japanese pair Nami Matsuyama and Chiharu Shida.
Ishaan Bhatnagar and Tanisha Crasto are the only Indian representatives in the category. They will start against the eighth-seeded pair from Germany,
Mark Lamsfuss and Isabel Lohau.
Tokyo Olympic bronze medalist pair Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino are the other seeds in the quarter.