2016 Malaysian Masters: Srikanth, Sindhu look to get season off to a positive start
The 2016 badminton season kicks off on Tuesday with the Malaysia Masters starting in Kuching, Sarawak. This is going to be one of the most crucial periods in the calendar in recent times with just 8 months for Rio and 5 months left for the badminton players to qualify for the marquee event, it goes without that all players will need to be at their best from the word go.
From an Indian perspective, all eyes will be on the Men’s Singles contingent. India will have as many as 7 players in the main draw and you could add two more to that if Sourabh Verma and Subhankar Dey pass the qualifying test.
Luckily, all the players in the main draw are coming off from the Premier Badminton League(PBL) and while the matches might not have been 21- point affairs, they will definitely be not short of match practice.
RMV Gurusaidutt will have a tough task on his hands from the word go as he faces up against the home favourite and former World No.1 Lee Chong Wei, who didn't look in the best of forms in the PBL.
Ajay Jayaram, who had a good second half of 2015, will be up against Takuma Ueda of Japan while HS Prannoy will play Kantaphon Wangcharoen of Thailand in his first match.
Playing his first competitive tournament since October 2015, Paruaplli Kashyap will certainly have butterflies in his stomach, despite featuring in the PBL. He will be up against Teck Zhi Soo of Ukraine in his first round match.
Kidambi Srikanth rounded off 2015 with a disappointing exit at the Superseries Finals, although just a tournament before that he reached the finals of the Indonesia Masters. He will play Wei Feng Chong in his first competitive match of 2016. Sameer Verma will also be seen in action and he will play Sho Sasaki while Sai Praneeth will play a qualifier.
In the Women’s Singles, there will be no Saina Nehwal but this is a great opportunity for PV Sindhu to carry forward the fine form that she showed in the PBL. The 20-year-old finished the tournament unbeaten and will look to start 2016 positively. She will take on Sabrina Jaquet of Switzerland in the first round.
The competition will also be vital for the doubles pairing of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa who will have to bring their A-game to the court if they are to harbor any hopes of securing a second Olympic berth and will play the pairing of Zhao Yunlei and Tian Qing from China in the opening round.
In the Men’s Doubles, Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy who looked good in patches last year will be up against Kevin Sanj Sukamuljo and Gideon Mar Fernaldi. India will also have a Mixed Doubles pair as Attri will pair up against Ponnappa to take on Irfan Fadilah and Weni Anggraini.