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Indonesia Masters 2019: Players to look out for

ANALYST
Feature
22 Jan 2019, 12:37 IST

PV Sindhu would be one of the top players at the Indonesia Masters
PV Sindhu would be one of the top players at the Indonesia Masters

The 2019 season of BWF World Tour is underway and rapidly gathering steam. In the recently concluded Malaysia Masters, we saw some interesting results that led to Ratchanok Intanon winning the women’s singles title while Son Wan Ho captured the men’s title.

Indonesia Masters will be the second Super 500 event of the year and therefore of great importance. It is going to be even more relevant due to the participation of some of the biggest names in the circuit.

Let’s look at some of the key players and rivalries that will be on show in Jakarta this year.

Men’s Division

Kento Momota would start his 2019 campaign with this tournament
Kento Momota would start his 2019 campaign with this tournament

The men’s division would be spearheaded by the world no. 1 Kento Momota, last year’s most successful player and the current World and Asian Champion. Interestingly, the man who humbled him in the final of the World Tour Masters last month – Shi Yuqi – would also be present.

Momota was the most dominant player last year and this tournament is the start of his 2019 campaign for keeping himself firmly on the top in men’s singles division. His Chinese nemesis, Yuqi, is also playing his first tournament of 2019 and if both men progress through to the final, we would be treated to a wonderful rematch of the 2018 World Tour Finals Final last year. It would be interesting to see whether Momota is back to being at his full fitness after a very demanding schedule last year which left him visibly tired and constrained in last season’s climax.

5-time world champion Lin Dan would look to arrest the decline in his form
5-time world champion Lin Dan would look to arrest the decline in his form

The legendary Lin Dan is also in the hunt and desperately in need to prove that he still has the winning touch. After a difficult 2018, there are doubts about whether he would represent China at the next year’s Olympics or not.

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While only two players are allowed from each country to play in the singles event at the Olympics, 2016 Rio champion, Chen Long – also the runners up in Malaysia last week – is also looking to pick up his form ahead of the big event in 2020. With Shi Yuqi looking like the next big singles star from China, Long and Dan may be fighting for the second spot.

Other Big Contestants

Anthony Ginting would be one of the crowd favorites
Anthony Ginting would be one of the crowd favorites

Other big names in the men’s draw include the 2017 World Champion Viktor Axelsen who seemed to somehow lose his way last year. Axelsen’s problems seemed not just technical but also mental as he often seemed to be on the edge of losing his cool during tournaments.

The buoyant Indonesians are also well represented with both Anthony Ginting, the player who was the most promising from his country last year, and Asian Games champion Jonatan Christie. With a very vocal crowd cheering them on, you expect them to be big contenders.

Lastly, Son Wan Ho, coming off with a great victory in the Malaysian Masters, would be keen to get back-to-back titles. He has been a good player for quite some time but hasn’t consistently kept himself at or near the top of the rankings. Another victory would make him a leading figure in men’s badminton for the moment.

Indian Challenge

Kidambi Srikanth would be the favorite among Indian male participants to make a mark
Kidambi Srikanth would be the favorite among Indian male participants to make a mark

The Indian stars on show would be Kidambi Srikanth, joined by Parupalli Kashyap and B Sai Praneeth. Srikanth is the favorite to make a mark, as he did in the 2017 Super Series season by winning four titles. Kashyap, on the other hand, would seek to re-establish himself as a leading Indian medal hope.

Women’s Division

After finishing runners up in Malaysia, World Champion Marin has a chance to go one better
After finishing runners up in Malaysia, World Champion Marin has a chance to go one better

Ratchanok Intanon, the enigmatic and highly-skilled Thai player, hasn’t performed as per the expectations roused after her 2013 World Championship win. But the time is ripe for her to establish herself at the top and the win at Malaysia Masters surely must have sown the seed of confidence in her.

Her opponent from last Sunday’s final, Carolina Marin, is also in the mix. The high-speed and physical domination that Marin has when she is playing at her best was missing from her game in the final in Malaysia. It would be interesting to see whether she can reach that level in this tournament.

World number one and 2017 World Champion Nozomi Okuhara would be there alongside her compatriot Akane Yamaguchi. So, will be the Indian stars Saina Nehwal, who was overpowered by Marin in the quarterfinals of Malaysia Masters last week, and PV Sindhu, the World Tour Finals winner.

Chinese Hopes

Chen Yufei's victory in the China Open last year has made her China's biggest hope in women's singles
Chen Yufei's victory in the China Open last year has made her China's biggest hope in women's singles

While Shi Yuqi has emerged as a major title winner for China in men’s singles, the two most prominent ladies for the country in women’s singles division – HE Bing Jiao and Chen Yufei – haven’t quite risen to the occasion in big tournaments.

However, Yufei’s victory in the China Open last year has given hope to Chinese fans that a big trophy isn’t far away. Bing Jiao, on the other hand, has been more consistent and has regularly qualified for the semis and, in one case, for the final of important tournaments, but is yet to get that breakthrough win. She couldn’t secure a single World Tour title in 2018 and the year has started on a difficult note with disappointing performances in the first two events of the year.

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