Indias shining star PV Sindhu isnt the only one chipping away at Chinese dominance these last few months,for as many as five Thais and three Japanese are poised in the Top 20 of womens singles in Badminton World Federations world rankings,waiting to jostle the high-ranked girls from badmintons superpower and shaking up the world order.
When Sindhu returns to the international circuit after an indifferent IBL at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymansium for the Japan Open Super Series starting Tuesday,it is this bunch of highly motivated upstarts that she will need to be wary of,as the World Championship bronze medallist has gone from being an underdog scalping the big Chinese in sensational upsets to a marked opponent targetted by the restless and ever-improving Thais and Chinese,in just one month.
With Saina Nehwal deciding to skip Tokyo to recover from the wear and tear of the IBL,Sindhu will lead the Indian challenge and negotiate the minefield that might seem a cakewalk upto the quarters,but can prove severely tricky. Shes slated to run into qualifiers unknown quantities in her two opening rounds,before she runs into Chinese Olympic champ Xuerui Li (not as unbeatable as she seemed last year),possibly,in the quarters. Thai Porntip Buranaprasertsuk and Japanese Sayaka Takahashi were the surprise semi-finalists at the China Masters this last week,and the throng of locals crowding the main draw in Japan will pose enough questions to the established names,Sindhu even.
Sindhu aside,Tanvi Lad,ranked No.77 in the world,enters her toughest tourney yet,and will play Japanese World No.20 Sayaka Takahashi in her opening round,and will know where she stands on the international level even as she strives to adjust to the higher gear and pace of the east Asians.
MEN HAVE LOTS TO PROVE
P Kashyap sprained his ankle in the IBL,and will also skip the Japan Open,leaving world number 23 Ajay Jayaram to lead the charge. Ajay,who exited inn the first round last week,takes on Chou Tien Chen of Chinese Taipei in the opener here,while Sai Praneeth will be up against eight seed Hu Yun of Hong Kong,returning from an injury.
Sourabh Varma will clash with a qualifier. The other three Indians,who have been promoted from qualifiers are Anand Pawar,H S Prannoy and K Srikanth. Srikanth,who won the Thailand Grand Prix gold this year and was in rollicking form in IBL,will open his campaign against Sho Sasaki of Japan,a test that will determine if the audacious Indian has it in him to challenge the seasoned campaigners on the circuit,just yet. Prannoy will face Wing Ki Wong of Hong Kong and Pawar will take on Sony Dwi Kuncoro of Indonesia in the opening round.
Indias doubles cupboard hasnt looked this bare and gaping for a long time,with no Indians in the fray in the womens and mixed doubles competition. While Jwala Gutta awaits her reunion with Ashwini Ponappa next month,the draw at Japan is near-depressing for Indians even back home.
In mens doubles,B Sumeet Reddy and Manu Attri,the only promising pair on view in the IBL,will fight it out against local pair of Hiroyuki Saeki and Ryota Taohata in the first round. With all the Indian combinations going out in the first round of the World Championships last month,Indias doubles trouble is visibly imminent.