India face steep challenge in China at the Sudirman Open 2019
The 2019 Sudirman Open is currently being held in Nanning, China and India have been placed in a tough group along with Malaysia and China. The top two teams in this group will go to the quarterfinals.
India has been regularly participating in the Sudirman Open, but the title has remained elusive for India until now. The solace here is that there has been an improvement in the results. In 2001, India were placed 17th, but in 2011 and 2017, a massive improvement saw India occupying the fifth place. The Indian contingent is looking forward to bring an end to the medal drought in this championship.
The Indian roster consists of some big names,
Men's Team - Srikanth Kidambi, Sameer Verma, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Chirag Shetty, Manu Attri, Sumeeth Reddy and Pranaav Chopra
Women’s Team - P.V. Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, Ashwini Ponnappa, Sikki Reddy, Poorvisha S Ram and Meghana Jakkampudi
The Indian team will take on the formidable Chinese team on 22 May who have won the title 10 times. India has reached the quarterfinals twice and lost both times to China. The Indians will have to dig deep into their reserves to give a good fight.
Let us look at both teams closely-
PV Sindhu was not in her best form until now this year. She has not won any title this year as well. To give India some respite Saina Nehwal is in slightly better form as compared to Sindhu. She won the Indonesian Masters earlier this year but was out of action for some time due to an injury. Chen Yufei will be the main competitor in the women's singles match. She is ranked 3 in the world and is a strong player.
Though Sindhu leads the head-to-head record by 4-3 against her, Yufei won the last match they played. Yufei has a head-to-head record of 2-1 against Saina and also won the most recent match they played.
Sameer Verma and Srikanth Kidambi have been selected to play the men's singles matches. Sameer Verma had a good run in 2018; for him the main challenge will be China's Shi Yuqi, who is an impressive player. He has a head-to-head record of 5-1 against Sameer Verma and has won the last three matches between them.
Srikanth Kidambi is leading the Indian contingent. He has a 4-1 head-to-head record against Shi Yuqi, which is good news.
Ashwini Ponnappa and Sikki Reddy, ranked 25th in the world will probably play the women's doubles match. They will mostly play against the 21-year-olds, Jia Yifan and Chen Qingchen, who are ranked 5th in the world. They are in top form and recently won the Badminton Asia Championship and the Celcom Axiata Malaysia Open 2019.
The other doubles team consists of Meghana Jakkampudi and Poorvisha S Ram. They don't seem to have a chance to make a dent in the Chinese armour.
India has two men's doubles teams as well - Satwiksairaj Rankireddy & Chirag Shetty and Manu Attri & Sumeeth B Reddy. Satwiksairaj Rankireddy & Chirag Shetty are India's best doubles team and won the Brazil International Challenge in May. But they may not be the most impressive against China's strong men's doubles teams.
Our chances in the mixed doubles team are probably the least. India has two teams - Rankireddy-Ponnappa and Pranaav Chopra-Sikki Reddy. China, on the other hand, is represented by Zheng Siwei-Huang Yaqiong and Wang Yilyu-Huang Dongping. They are the top-ranked team and have already won three titles this year.
China has already defeated Malaysia 5-0. India's strategy should be to defeat Malaysia and then play well against China to build their confidence. They must then develop a strong strategy for the next stages of the tournament.