India has claimed a total of 10 medals in the sport of badminton at the Asian Games, of which a glittering gold remains a glaring miss. With nine bronze medals and a solitary silver so far in their kitty in 18 previous appearances at the continental extravaganza, Indian shuttlers will be going all out to grab that elusive yellow metal at the upcoming Asian Games in Huangzhou, China.
This has been a mixed season as far as Indian badminton players are concerned. While there have been some major disappointments, especially in the form of PV Sindhu, some shuttlers have left their mark with their confident displays.
As we count down to the 19th Asiad, set to get underway on September 23, here's a look at India's top three gold medal contenders in badminton:
#3 Lakshya Sen
Lakshya Sen, the winner of the 2022 Commonwealth Games men's singles gold, started the 2023 season on the wrong foot. A surgery to correct the deviated nasal septum towards the end of last year took him a lot more time than expected to recover.
The 22-year-old would often suffer from allergies in the aftermath of the surgery and failed to deliver his best on the court at the start of this year. It took him nine BWF tournaments to make his first semifinal of the season at the Thailand Open in June.
The Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy product progressively got better from thereon and it reflected in his results. The month of July turned out to be a successful one for the youngster as he won the Canada Open, made the semi-finals of the US Open and the Japan Open.
While he did withdraw from his last tournament at the Hong Kong Open right before his first-round match, one can assume it was only a precaution to preserve his fitness ahead of the Asian Games. Indian badminton fans will hope that the rest would have done the World No. 14 a world of good and he comes back roaring in Huangzhou.
#2 HS Prannoy
HS Prannoy has been hands down India's best singles player this season. The Keralite's consistent results in 2023 have helped him cement a top-10 position throughout the season.
Currently placed at No. 7 in the world rankings, Prannoy is India's highest-ranked singles shuttler at the moment, even ahead of PV Sindhu, who is right now ranked 15th. And his performances speak for themselves.
The 31-year-old achieved a personal milestone by winning his first-ever medal from the BWF World Championships (a bronze). It was India's 14th medal from the prestigious world event.
Other than that, Prannoy lifted the trophy at the Malaysia Masters and finished as the runner-up at the Australian Open after what was a nail-biting three-game final. In addition, he has had a semi-final appearance at the Indonesia Open and four quarterfinal finishes this year.
Fearless and hungry as ever, Prannoy will definitely aim to bring home more glory from the Asian Games.
#1 Satwiksairaj Rankireddy & Chirag Shetty
India's best performer in badminton overall this season has undoubtedly been the men's doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty. With a staggering four titles in their pocket this year, they have clearly thrown down the gauntlet to other challengers.
Danish great Mathias Boe's presence as the head doubles coach has reaped huge dividends, making Rankireddy and Shetty a formidable team for any of their opponents to face. The two tasted success for the first time this year at the Swiss Open and were soon after crowned the Asian champions.
Between the Indonesia Open in June and the Japan Open in July, Rankireddy and Shetty went on an unbeaten run of 12 matches. The sizzling winning streak saw them emerge victorious at the Indonesia Open and the Korea Open before succumbing to a defeat in the quarter-finals of the Japan Open.
The performances catapulted them to their highest-ever world ranking of No. 2 as well.
With so much going for them this season, Rankireddy and Shetty, who are currently ranked No. 3, will look to add the Asian Games crown to the Commonwealth Games gold medal they won last year.