Tata Open: Sourabh Verma seeks a return to form as Lakshya Sen aims to continue winning run
India’s last international badminton tournament of the year -- the $20, 000 Tata Open India International Challenge -- will see a host of players from the country battling it out in the event that will conclude on December 3. But, perhaps the tournament holds the biggest significance for nobody other than Sourabh Verma and Lakshya Sen.
Verma, a champion in Mumbai in 2013, is the top seed. 2017 has not been kind to him after a year that saw him win the Chinese Taipei Masters, besides reaching three other finals on the BWF Tour. In an injury-marred year, his best performances so far have been a couple of quarter-final finishes at Grand Prix Gold tournaments.
An ankle injury that he sustained during a training session in Hyderabad in September made it even worse. Having been put on the sidelines for two months because of it, he could not defend his Senior Nationals crown and suffered two first-round defeats when he resumed playing.
His ranking took a nosedive as a result of it and the former World No. 30 is currently at a lowly 49th, having tumbled out of the top 50 very recently.
Suffice to say, the Tata Open will serve as the springboard to confidence for the struggling Verma as he seeks some much-needed consistency ahead of the Premier Badminton League and the 2018 season.
Sen on a five-match winning streak
On the other side of the spectrum is the 16-year-old Lakshya Sen, who is the sixth seed at this event. The prodigious teen has come to the Mumbai tournament on the back of a five-match winning streak after triumphing at the India International Series tournament in Hyderabad last week.
By claiming his second International Series-level title of the year and the third overall of his fledgling career, the former junior World No. 1 has already started laying claim to the riches in the senior circuit. A student of the Prakash Padukone Badminton Academy, he is a fast learner and is improving by leaps and bounds.
The 108th ranked Lakshya, who has been hovering around the top 100, hasn’t yet won an International Challenge trophy, so winning here will be another big step to prominence for the rising star.
The others challengers for them will be the second seeded Abhishek Yelegar, the fifth seeded Pratul Joshi and the eighth seeded Rahul Yadav Chittaboina. The third seeded Giap Chin Goh of Malaysia too will be one player to watch.
In the women’s singles section, former national champion Rituparna Das returns to action for the first time after August’s World Championships. She is the top seed and could face some stiff resistance from the second seeded Sri Krishna Priya Kudaravalli and the South Asian Games champion Ruthvika Shivani Gadde, most of all.
The doubles section too has quite a few big stars. The India No. 1 pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty will be hoping to successfully defend the title they won last year. It has been a season to remember for the young pair, who made splashes on the BWF Tour in their first year of playing the Superseries tournaments. National champions Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy are the second seeds.
In women’s doubles, Meghana Jakkampudi and Poorvisha S Ram will be leading India’s challenge while in mixed doubles, Prajakta Sawant and Yogendran Khrishnan will look to continue their good form.