The 5th edition of the blockbuster Premier Badminton League is set to kickstart on 20th January. The league will be featuring some of the best talents from around the world, including World Championship and Olympic medal winners.
The 21-day badminton extravaganza will see seven teams battling it out for the title this time around. The star-studded affair will begin at the Jawaharlal Nehru Indoor Stadium in Chennai, before moving on to the Babu Banarasi Das U.P. Badminton Academy in Lucknow, and the final stages of the competition set to be held at the G. M. C. Balayogi SATS Indoor Stadium in Hyderabad.
There is no dearth of opportunities for young shuttlers in the tournament. With a chance to play along and against global icons, the PBL will a tremendous platform for them to learn and grow. It is a question of rising to the occasion and making the most of the opportunity.
Pune 7 Aces have a fantastic mix of players and the team's fans will be having high expectations from the team.
On that note, here's an analysis of the franchise from Pune ahead of their campaign in the upcoming season.
Men's Singles: Loh Kean Yew, Kazumasa Sakai, Mithun Manjunath
Loh Kean Yew is an extremely talented singles player. The 22-year-old Singaporean shuttler has played 182 career singles matches out of which he has won 117. The youngster clinched a silver medal for Singapore at the Southeast Asian Games in December last year. Loh defeated Malaysia's Lee Zii Jia, who is World No.13 currently, in the final of the tournament.
He also bagged the gold medal at the Super 300 Thailand Masters last year after defeating the legendary Lin Dan in the final. Other notable achievements include silver medals at the 2019 Hyderabad Open and the 2019 Russian Open.
The right-hander is currently ranked 39th in the international circuit. His most recent outing was at the Indonesia Masters 2020. Loh began his campaign by defeating ace Japanese shuttler Kanta Tsuneyama 24-22 21-9 in the first round. After causing an upset against the World No.10 in Round 1, Loh bowed out in the pre-quarterfinals. He is still a supremely talented player capable of causing upsets to even the best in the world and will be one to watch out for in PBL 2019.
Kazumasa Sakai of Japan is another Singles specialist with the Pune 7 aces. The 29-year-old is currently ranked 65th and has won 156 of the 262 career singles matches he has played. The right-handed shuttler won the silver medal at the 2018 Indonesia Masters Super 500 tournament. Another notable achievement of his is finishing runner-up at the BWF Superseries Indonesia Open in 2017.
India's Mithun Manjunath is the third singles player in the Pune 7 Aces setup. The 21-year-old has played 93 career singles matches out of which he has won 51. He is currently ranked 132nd in Men's singles and will look to make the most of the limited opportunities he gets in PBL 2020.
Men’s Doubles: Chirag Shetty, Hendra Setiawan, MR Arjun
Chirag Shetty is the marquee Indian player of the Pune 7 Aces squad. The 22-year-old teams up with Satwiksairaj Rankireddy in the international circuit and the duo, who are currently World No.11 in the category, have brought many laurels for the country.
They won the silver medal at the prestigious Super 750 French Open last year and also clinched the gold at the 2019 Thailand Open. Chirag also boasts of a gold and silver medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. The ace Indian shuttler has 130 wins out of the 197 career doubles matches he has played and will be a force to reckon with in the upcoming PBL season.
Hendra Setiawan will likely be teaming up with Chirag Shetty for the men's doubles matches. The Indonesian partners with Mohammad Ahsan in the international circuit and the duo are legends in the category. 35-year-old Hendra has played a phenomenal 739 career doubles matches out of which he has won 545.
Considered one of the best doubles players in history, Hendra has a plethora of achievements. He won the elusive gold medal at the 2008 Summer Olympics with Marki Kido. The veteran shuttler has four BWF World Championships gold medals. Hendra and Mohammad Ahsan won the gold in the men's doubles event at the 2019 World Championships as well.
They were champions at the 2019 World Tour Finals in December last year. In 2019, Hendra won the All England Open (Super 1000) and New Zealand Open (Super 300) apart from finishing runners-up in seven BWF World Tour tournaments.
MR Arjun is a talented doubles player. He has 118 career wins in men's doubles and 44 career wins in mixed doubles. The 22-year-old teams up with Ramchandran Shlok in the international circuit and the duo is currently ranked 48th in the Men's doubles category.
He won gold at the 2019 Ghana International with Shlok. The duo also finished runners-up at the Lagos International. Arjun also teamed up with Dhruv Kapila and won silver at the 2019 Nepal International and Bangladesh International, both of which are BWF International Challenge tournaments.
Furthermore, Arjun paired up with K. Maneesha for a mixed doubles event and won the gold medal at 2019 Lagos International and silver at the 2019 Ghana International. Arjun is a classy shuttler with lots of experience at a young age. He can be a great weapon for Pune if they get their combinations right.
Also check: PBL 2020 Points Table
Women's Singles: Thi Trang Vu, Rituparna Das
Thi Trang Vu is an experienced Vietnamese shuttler. The 27-year-old is currently ranked 45th in the international circuit. She has 161 wins out of the 271 career singles matches played. In 2019, Thi won the U.S. International, finished as the runner-up at the Maldives International, and won the Ghana International.
India's Rituparna Das is also a potent young shuttler. The 23-year-old is currently ranked 99th in the International circuit but is a player on the rise. Das has 108 career singles wins in 163 matches played. The former national champion is one the youngsters to watch out for in PBL Season 5.
2019 was a spectacular season for Das. She put up a spirited performance against Carolina Marin in the final of the Italian International. Although the Spaniard eventually won the final, Das put up a great fight in the final and did well in the tournament to clinch silver. She also won a silver medal at 2019 Dubai International which is a testament to her abilities. Once the Haldia-born player gets into her rhythm, she can prove to be tough opposition for the best of players in the competition.
Mixed Doubles: Chris Adcock, Tse Ying Suet, Kuhoo Garg
Chris Adcock is another experienced doubles player in the Pune team. The 34-year-old currently specializes in mixed doubles but has notable achievements in the men's doubles category as well. He has 141 wins from the 259 career doubles matches played.
The English pair of Chris Adcock and Gabrielle (Gabby) Adcock are currently ranked 12th in the mixed doubles category. The veteran doubles player has two Commonwealth Games Gold medals to his name, while also winning the silver medal at the 2019 European Games with his wife Gabby. Other notable achievements of the southpaw include silver medals at the 2019 Dutch Open (Super 100) and 2018 Thailand Open (Super 500).
Tse Ying Suet is a highly experienced mixed doubles player. The southpaw has 183 career wins in Mixed doubles out of the 313 matches played. The Hong Kong International teams up with Tang Chun Man and the duo is currently ranked 10th in the BWF circuit. The pair won the Bronze medal at the coveted BWF World Championships in 2018.
Suet and Tang clinched Silver at the 2018 Jakarta-Palembang Asian Games. Their best wins from 2019 include the gold medal wins at the Korea Masters (Super 300) and Chinese Taipei Open (Super 300).
Kuhoo Garg is a talented Indian doubles player, and the 21-year-old has played quite a few matches in the mixed doubles category, as well as the women's doubles category as well. She won the gold medal at the Egypt International last year along, paired up with Dhruv Rawat.
To sum up, Pune 7 Aces have a good mix of both experienced players and talented youngsters in their ranks. With so much firepower, they can spring a surprise by lifting the PBL Season 5 trophy.Published 18 Jan 2020, 19:30 IST