PBL 2017: 5 lesser known players you should know about

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy
Satwiksairaj Rankireddy (R) winning a doubles competition with Chirag Shetty

A new season of the PBL is set to begin in the new year, with big name players making their way to India. The best thing about the Premier Badminton League (PBL) is that it is not only about the superstars. The six-franchise pan-Indian league has given a platform to many less popular players to showcase their skills and learn from the very best. At the same time, it has also provided badminton fans a big opportunity to watch some world class action and become familiar with the other talented players.

Here we present five lesser known names participating in the upcoming second season of the PBL whom you should know about:

#1 Satwiksairaj Rankireddy (Hyderabad Hunters)

Aged just 16, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy is one Indian talent you should know about. Athletic and powerful, he has been a sensation on the doubles circuit in the past few months and is rapidly climbing his way up the charts. For many, Rankireddy is the best rising star from the upcoming generation.

The teenager has already broken into the top 75 of both the men’s and the mixed doubles. In a stellar 2016, Rankireddy and 19-year-old Chirag Shetty joined forces to grab as many as four titles. That has seen them jump over 350 spots in the past seven months.

In mixed doubles too, he tasted victory alongside K Maneesha, partnering her to three titles. With so much confidence, the teenager can be a valuable asset to the Hyderabad Hunters and will get to cherish a rare opportunity to learn from the World No. 1 men’s double player Wee Kiong Tan.

#2 Rituparna Das (Awadhe Warriors)

Das has trained at the Gopichand Badminton Academy (Image Courtesy: Sportseed)

The spotlight will be firmly on the shuttle queen Saina Nehwal when the Awadhe Warriors play their matches. But the second women’s singles player in that team too is a highly-talented emerging player.

Rituparna Das, who has just turned 20, hails from Haldia in West Bengal. She has been training at the famed Gopichand Badminton Academy for the past eight years and her determination is bearing fruit this year.

She won the Polish International and rode on the good form to reach the semi-finals of the Prague Open where she upset the second seed Martina Repiska in straight games. The steadily-rising Rituparna also triumphed at the India International Series towards the end of the season where she beat the top seed and Russian Open champion Ruthvika Shivani Gadde in the final.

Her recent run has pushed her to a career-best ranking of 64 which also makes her the current India No. 5 women’s singles player.

#3 Ko Sung Hyun (Bengaluru Blasters)

Ko Sung  Hyun
The Korean is the No. 2 doubles player in the world

With more focus on singles players in India, fans all over the country might not be quite familiar with the top doubles exponents playing at the PBL2. The Bengaluru Blasters boasts of the World No. 2 mixed doubles player Ko Sung Hyun of Korea, who was ranked the No. 1 as recently as last week.

The 29-year-old is a highly accomplished doubles ace and is a holder of five Superseries titles in mixed doubles, two of which came this year itself. In men’s doubles too, he has six crowns at the Superseries level which further proves his doubles prowess.

Hyun has three medals from the World Championships too – a gold and silver in men’s doubles apart from a bronze in mixed doubles. There is no doubt that the Korean’s presence will bolster the Blasters as they search for their first PBL title.

#4 Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk (Chennai Smashers)

2016 Hong Kong Open Badminton Championships : News Photo
The Thai won the Thailand Open in October

Last year’s MVP Tommy Sugiarto might have switched to the Chennai Smashers from the Delhi Acers this time, but the Smashers men’s singles player who will be the one to watch out for is not Sugiarto, it is Thailand’s Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk. He is the highest ranked player in that section and is currently placed at 11th, ahead of both Sugiarto and India’s Parupalli Kashyap.

What makes him so dangerous is the fact that he is coming to PBL2 with a rich vein of form. He won his maiden Grand Prix title at the Thailand Open in October, winning all but one of his matches in straight games. The southpaw then took it a notch higher by creating history at the Denmark Open Superseries Premier the same month.

The 26-year-old became the first Thai to win a men’s singles title at the Superseries Premier level when he upset the sixth seed Son Wan Ho in the final. With the biggest title of his career under his belt, Saensomboonsuk has all the momentum needed for a strong show.

#5 Nitchaon Jindapol (Delhi Acers)

Nitchain Jindapaol
Jindapol is the No. 4 Thai player

The Delhi Acers women’s singles challenge will be led by the 17th ranked player Nitchaon Jindapol. The 25-year-old comes from the hotbed of Thai badminton and is their No. 4 player after Ratchanok Intanon, Porntip Buranaprasertsuk and Busanan Ongbamrungphan.

She has risen to as high as No. 12 in the world in 2014 and has the necessary experience to help the Acers defend their title. With wins over both the Olympic champion Carolina Marin and Olympic silver medallist PV Sindhu, Jindapol can be one tricky opponent for anyone to face.

The former Bitburger Open titlist reached yet another final at the said tournament this November and the performance surely provided her the necessary boost ahead of PBL2.

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