Can PV Sindhu capitalise on Saina Nehwal's absence?
It was meant to be an event that would feature some of the biggest names in Asia, but, in the end, it seems like the Badminton Asia Team Championships(BATC), scheduled to be hosted by Hyderabad between the 15th and 21st February, will perhaps not attract as much fanfare as it was meant to.
The reason? Withdrawal of several top names like Saina Nehwal, Chen Long, Lee Chong Wei from the competition.
From an Indian perspective, the withdrawal of the 25-year-old is particularly concerning, simply because she hasn't featured in any international competition so far this year and has been part of just the Premier Badminton League, where she and her team the Awadhe Warriors entered the semifinals of the competition.
As told by her father, she will now participate in the prestigious All England Championships a tournament where she won silver in 2015 that eventually took her to the Number 1 ranking for the 1st time in her career.
There is one event prior to that- The German Open, which begins on the opening day of March and Saina will not be featuring in that, even as her close rival Carolina Marin will be the top seed in the competition.
It would be interesting to see how she fares at the All England Open with very little match practice and like always, there will be huge expectations from her from the ever-growing Indian fan base.
Is this Sindhu’s big chance now?
While it hasn't been the ideal of starts to 2016 for Saina, it has been the opposite in the case of PV Sindhu. The 20-year-old, who had a largely disappointing 2015, got her 2016 off to a very good start, looking very impressive at the Premier Badminton League, and then winning the Malaysian Open title a week later.
The All England Open will be an important tournament for Saina, but it could be an even more critical event for Sindhu. Presently ranked 12th in the world, a good performance in Birmingham will no doubt help her go up in the rankings and improve her chances of going to Rio.
Considering that Saina will be entering the championships with very little match practice, it also wouldn't be wrong to consider Sindhu to be a top contender and go all the way. She has in the past done well in the BWF conducted tournaments and reached the finals of the Denmark Open Super Series last year.
This is a very important phase for every Indian shuttler with just 3 months left in the qualification period to progress to Rio to end and hopefully, by the end of that period, India will have a settled look to their badminton team.