International badminton gears up for the two biggest competitions before the Paris Olympics, starting with the Singapore Open Super 750 on Tuesday.

The next week will see all top Indian players return to action after a brief break… and most of them have very tough draw awaiting them.

With exactly two months to go for Paris 2024, there is an also added layer of intrigue to the performances of India’s Olympic-bound players. Can they go deep in a full-strength draw while managing their peak for Paris? The next two weeks, ending with the Indonesia Open Super 1000, may give us the answer, or at least an idea of their form guide..

Here’s a closer look at Indians’ draw and chances at Singapore Open Super 750:

Women’s Singles

All eyes on Sindhu’s current level

The spotlight will be back on PV Sindhu, who showed glimpses of her vintage self in her run to the final of last week’s Malaysia Masters, after coming off a training break aimed at the Olympics. But she will have a very mental and physical challenge to deal with this week: First, to regroup from the disappointing final loss where she squandered a 11-3 lead in the decider to China’s Wang Zhi Yi. Second to brave a rough draw, which will pit her against old rival and recently resurgent Carolina Marin if both win their openers.

Sindhu will start her campaign against Denmark’s Line Hojmark Kjaersfeldt, who she leads 3-0 with their last match coming in 2022. If she wins this and beats the third-seeded Marin (H2H 11-5), there could be a potential rematch against Han Yue who she beat last week.

Irrespective of the result though, this week can be a good test of Sindhu’s current level if she can hold her own against Marin coming off a week of long matches.

Another Indian in the draw is Aakarshi Kashyap, who is drawn to play Pornpicha Choeikeewong. The Indian has beaten her at the junior level but this is their first senior meeting.

Men’s Singles

Olympic-bound Prannoy, Lakshya return to tour

Lakshya Sen, playing his first match since the Thomas Cup quarterfinals earlier this month, faces the toughest test in his opener – taking on top seed Viktor Axlesen. The Dane has had one of his worst seasons with injury layoffs this year but roared back to form with the Malaysia Masters title on Sunday. Lakshya, too, has found some momentum with wins over higher ranked players after a rough start to the season and will hope to carry it on. Axelsen leads 6-1, the Indian having beaten him back in his breakthrough 2022, and Lakshya will hope to channel that energy.

The bigger focus, though, will be on HS Prannoy’s form here. The India No 1 is seeded eighth and starts against an easier opponent in Belgium’s Julien Carraggi. But his last match, two weeks back, was a straight-games loss to 21-year-old Indian BWF Tour debutant Meiraba Luwang Maisnam at the Thailand Open… adding to a troubling number of early losses this year. The veteran who qualified for his first Olympics after a breakthrough 2023 now needs to rediscover his fitness and freshness and the next few weeks will be crucial.

A win could set up a rematch with Su Li Yang, who beat him at All England, or Kenta Nishimoto, who beat him at Badminton Asia Team Championships this year. The other seed in his quarter is All England champion Jonatan Christie.

Also in the men’s singles draw is Kidambi Srikanth starting against 5th seed Kodai Naraoka, who leads him 3-0. The former world No 1 has not made the Olympics cut and could play with more freedom, depending on which version of Srikanth turns up on the day.

Priyanshu Rajawat starts against Lee Cheuk You, who he had beaten at Swiss Open earlier this year. A win could mean a clash with 6th seed Li Shi Feng.

What did we say about a tough draw right at the start?

Men’s Doubles

Top seeds Sat-Chi look to continue winning streak

The top favourites for the title will of course be top seeds and world No 1 Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty. They took a week’s break after their Thailand Open title and should be raring to go this week ahead of the Indonesia Open title defence next week.

Satwik and Chirag will start against Denmark’s Daniel Lundgaard and Mads Vestergaard in what is their first meeting.

There is a potential second round against China’s He Ji Ting and Ren Xiang Yu and quarterfinal against China’s eighth-seeded Liu Yu Chen and Ou Xuan Yi – the Indians lead both pairs in H2H. The projected semifinal is against reigning world champions Kang and Seo but when have the seedings held in men’s doubles? Rhetoric questions aside, this full-strength draw should be a good challenge for the world No 1 pair.

Also in the draw are Krishna Prasad Garaga and Sai Pratheek, who have unfortunately drawn second seeds Liang Wei Keng and Wang Chang in the opener.

Women’s Doubles

Ashwini-Tanisha look for a good run ahead of Olympics

There will be as many as four Indian pairs in women’s doubles but the one in focus will be Olympic-bound Ashwini Ponappa and Tanisha Crasto who will look for a good run to build some momentum. They start against Ukrainian pair of Polina Buhrova and Yevheniia Kantemyr in what is their first meeting.

Next up, will likely be the challenge of eighth-seeded Apriyani Rahayu and Siti Fadia Silva Ramadhanti, who start against India’s Simran Singhi and Ritika Thaker.

Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand start against Cheng Yu-Pei and Sun Yu Hsing and a win will put them in the path of second seeds Baek Ha Na and Lee So Hee.

Also in the draw are Panda sisters, Rutaparna and Swetaparna, who open against Chang Ching Hui and Yang Ching Tun.

Mixed Doubles

Indian representation increases

After a while of having no Indians in the mixed doubles draw at the highest level, the Singapore Open will see 4 pairs in action. Not many are expected to go deep given the relative inexperience but it’s a start nonetheless.

The husband-wife pair of veterans B Sumeeth Reddy and Sikki Reddy, the upcoming pair of Sathish Kumar Karunakaran and Aadya Variyath will be the ones to watch out for. Competing the set are Ashith Surya and Amrutha Pramuthesh as well as Venkat Gaurav Prasad and Juhi Dewangan.

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