5 players to watch out for in the Indonesia Masters
After an interesting start to the year with the Malaysia Masters, BWF World Tour now moves to Indonesia. The tournament in Jakarta is, like the preceding one in Kuala Lumpur, a Super 500 event. Interestingly, both players who entered Malaysia Masters as no. 1 seeds – Kento Momota and Tai Tzu Ying – are not taking part in this tournament.
While Momota had withdrawn from this tournament even before sustaining an injury through a car accident, Tai is also absent. But most other top players are in the fray. From an Indian point of view, PV Sindhu will once again try to overcome her World Tour tournament blues while Saina Nehwal would be desperate for a good performance to keep her hopes of getting to Tokyo Olympics.
So, with that in mind, let us give you a list of five players whose performances you should keenly follow. Though every top player is exciting to watch and has reasons of his or her own to go all out, some players would be especially keen to perform well. Here are five of them and the reasons why you should pay attention to them.
#5. Shi Yu Qi
Shi Yu Qi emerged as China’s best male badminton player in 2018 and was believed to be their biggest hope for retaining the Olympic men’s singles gold that has been with the country since Lin Dan captured it in 2008.
But an injury halted his good run of form and since returning to action after recovering his fitness, he hasn’t been the same player. Thankfully, for the Chinese shuttler, he has a little bit of time to get back his form. He reached the quarter-final in Malaysia but couldn’t proceed further.
Now, Shi has to start getting to the deep end of major tournaments, in fact, he has to start winning them. Otherwise, his Olympic dreams may come crashing down. His first-round match would be against B Sai Praneeth. The latter is a capable player and one Shi defeated in a World Tour event final last year. It would be a good contest to start off the season.
#4. An Se Young
Last year, the badminton world was stunned by the incredible rise of An Se Young, a 17-year-old teenage sensation from South Korea. She won the French Open and defeated both the reigning World and Olympic Champions in a short space of time.
2020 hasn’t begun all that well for the South Korean teenager. She lost in one of the early rounds last week to Saina Nehwal. In this tournament, she would start off against her senior compatriot Sung Ji Hyun.
If An has to go to Olympics and make a splash there, which she can, she has to regain the form shown in Paris. Facing Sung Ji Hyun in the first round would be challenging. Sung was once the top ranked player in the world but since then has fallen down the pecking order.
But being her compatriot, Sun may have a better understanding of An Se Young’s game. Any predictions for this match would be difficult.
#3. PV Sindhu
The current World Champion PV Sindhu will start her campaign against Aya Ohori of Japan. This should be an easy contest for the Indian girl but the problem with her is the lack of form she is suffering from in World Tour events.
In fact, if one looks at her results since the World Championship triumph, they are quite poor. Again, there is the semi-philosophical question about the relevance of such tournaments if she continues to win medals in major tournaments like World Championships and Olympics.
Still, it’s good to have some momentum behind you, especially in an Olympic year. It’s also time for her to re-focus and re-discover her hunger. With the Premier Badminton League to begin soon, she further needs to get into form so that she puts up a great show in front of her home crowd.
#2. Saina Nehwal
Times are tough for former world no. 1 Saina. She has been really struggling for quite a few months and questions are being asked about her future. Time is also running out for her as far as automatic qualification for Olympics is concerned.
She did register a good victory over An Se Young last week but then ended up losing to Carolina Marin. If winning this tournament is a long shot, she would hope for at least a couple of good wins over other top players. In the second round, she is likely to face Sindhu. That should be an epic clash.
In the last couple of years, Saina has had the wood over Sindhu, both in national and international events. But Sindhu has worked hard and talked about trying to come up with a better game plan against her senior colleague. It would be interesting to see whether that plan works in this tournament.
#1. Ratchanok Intanon
The story of Ratchanok Intanon is one of promise not fulfilled in the most disappointing manner. She won the World Championship way back in 2013 and the badminton world thought a new legend is in the making.
But since then, she has consistently flattered to deceive. Till 2018, she was still doing well and was regarded as the only player capable of taking down Tai Tzu Ying. But since winning the India Open last year, success has been rare.
Possessing great skills and fleet-footedness, she is capable of playing beautifully on her day. But she too is in dire need of some form. Tokyo could be her last chance at Olympic glory. The state of her play will be in the spotlight as well.
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