It is an undeniable fact that Indian men’s singles players have been struggling of late. Players like Kidambi Srikanth and HS Prannoy haven’t won much recently while B Sai Praneeth, apart from his bronze at the World Championships, also hasn't had much success to write home about.
The next big challenge for these men’s singles competitors from India is the All England Open which is scheduled to begin on March 11. As of now, as many as seven Indian men are scheduled to take part in the tournament. All of them, have a tough challenge ahead.
Sameer Verma has, at times, performed above expectations, like when he qualified for the World Tour finals in 2018. However, at All England Open, he would start his campaign against the top-seed Chou Tien Chen. In one way, he can consider himself lucky. He would not be starting off against Kento Momota, who, due to missing some tournaments, is not the top seed here. Still, Chou isn’t an easy proposition either.
Sameer’s brother, Saurabh, has a much easier opponent in Kanta Tsuneyama in first round. But if manages to win this match, he is likely to play Chou in the second round. He would hope that his brother upsets the Taiwanese and then the two of them can settle the matter amongst themselves.
Checkout: All England Open 2020 Schedule
Prannoy has it easier
One player who has a reasonably simpler challenge in front of him is Prannoy. He would start his tournament against Wang Tzu Wei – a player who isn’t considered among the top singles competitors. If he wins, his next opponent is going to be either Ng Ka Long Angus or Kenta Nishimoto. Both are good players on their day but Prannoy will fancy his chances against them. The quarterfinals could see the Indian shuttler taking on Chou Tien Chen – that would be a much tougher match.
Parupalli Kashyap hasn’t been able to regain his old form. The former Commonwealth Games Champion hasn’t been able to register any big victories in recent times. He had to withdraw from his match at the Spain Masters due to discomfort but is hopeful of returning to action. He would take on Shesar Hiren Rustavito of Indonesia in first round. This would have been an easy match for Kashyap when he was at his best. Currently, we can’t be sure of who would win.
If he progresses, he is likely to run into, arguably, the favourite to win the tournament, Anthony Sinisuka Ginting. He certainly won’t be seen as a likely winner in that contest.
Arduous for Srikanth
The draws have also been tough on Kashyap’s successor Kidambi Srikanth. He starts his tournament against the man seeded third – Olympic Champion Chen Long. However, Kidambi would be more hopeful than usual since Chen has been quite average in the last couple of years.
In contrast to Srikanth, B Sai Praneeth has a very easy opponent in China’s unseeded Zhao Jun Peng. He should win this match easily but would then face either Tommy Sugiarto of Indonesia or Shi Yu Qi of China. Praneeth would fancy himself against either of those opponents. Even though Shi is a former winner of this event, he suffered an injury last year which seems to have taken a toll on his play and he hasn’t been the same player since.
The challenge for Praneeth would get tougher as he is, in case there isn’t an upset, scheduled to play the second seed and last year’s finalist Viktor Axelsen. The Dane would fancy his chances as Kento Momota isn’t playing in the tournament. Hence, defeating the former World Champion would be a very difficult task for the bronze medalist from last year’s World Championships.
Interestingly, the least fancied Indian player in this division – Lakshya Sen – has a seemingly easy opponent in Lee Cheuk Yiu of Hong Kong. But that is only on a cursory glance. Lee stunned everyone last year when he won the Hong Kong Open and defeated the favourite Anthony Sinisuka Ginting in a nail-biting contest.
If Sen manages to stun Lee, he is likely to run into Axelsen in the second round and few would bet on the Dane losing that match. So, one cannot be very optimistic about the Indian’s chances.
Summing it up
Overall, there isn’t much hope for India in the men’s singles. However, at different times, the likes of Praneeth, Srikanth, and Sameer have punched above their weight and produced better than expected results. Hopefully, the same would happen here. After all, India hasn’t won a medal at this prestigious tournament since Pullela Gopichand’s historic triumph. Will we see the jinx being broken this year?