Indian badminton players PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal, Kidambi Srikanth, and B Sai Praneeth will be part of a sparse Indian contingent competing in the All England Open 2020 which gets underway on Wednesday, March 11.
The women’s doubles duos of Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy, and Pooja Dandu and Sanjana Santosh are also expected to be on hand.
The rest of the Indian badminton players, however, chose to withdraw from the tournament
The list of pullouts includes men’s singles players HS Prannoy, Sameer Verma and Sourabh Verma while Chirag Shetty, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy are among the doubles specialists poised for a no show.
PV Sindhu embraces tradition
Playing havoc with sporting calendars the world over, the ongoing coronavirus epidemic has been dominating headlines, and it’s certainly something that’s on the minds of the Indian badminton players headed to England.
To that effect, world no. 6 PV Sindhu has decided to adopt a no-handshake policy, preferring instead to stick to the traditional Indian greeting of ‘Namaste’ from a distance.
“We need to avoid it (handshakes). It’s always good to be on the safer side, to take extra care of oneself,” Indian badminton star PV Sindhu told Times of India.
All England Open 2020 schedule and fixtures
Seeded sixth, PV Sindhu will face world no. 13 Beiwen Zhang of the USA in the first round. The two have faced off against each other nine times since 2011, with PV Sindhu coming out on top on five of those occasions.
Their most recent fixture was the Korea Open 2019, which went to Zhang.
Meanwhile, Saina Nehwal has an even more potent challenge on her hands at the All England Open 2020 in Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi.
The third-seeded Yamaguchi has managed to get the better of Saina Nehwal in eight of their ten matches, with the Indian badminton star last winning against the world no. 3 in the Denmark Open 2018.
Saina Nehwal made it all the way to the All England Open finals in 2015, only to lose to Carolina Marin after a first-game victory crumbled into a 21-16, 14-21, 7-21 loss.
Among the men, Kidambi Srikanth will face sixth seed Chen Long of China, who holds a 6-2 edge over the Indian badminton player in their eight matches played against each other.
Also facing a potent Chinese threat at the All England Open 2020 will be Sai Praneeth, whose first round will be against Jun Peng Zhao. The last and only time the two faced each other was during the Macau Open 2016, where the Indian badminton player lost 19-21, 9-21.
Finally, in the women’s doubles category, Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy will face the Aussie pairing of Setyana Mapasa and Gronya Somerville in their first-round fixture, while Pooja Dandu and Sanjana Santosh will face Malaysians Vivian Hoo and Cheng Wen Yap.
Why the All England Open is important for 2020 Olympics
Aside from offering the players a valuable opportunity to evaluate how they stack up against the cream of the competition during the Olympic year, ranking events like the All England Open 2020 impact one’s chances of making the cut for the 2020 Olympics as well.
The BWF World Ranking Lists as of April 30 will be used to determine 34 singles players and 16 pairs of doubles players for the 2020 Olympics.
With the qualification window for badminton ending on April 26, those who are not in a safe spot in the rankings had planned to make the most of the matches during the lead-up. However, many of those events now stand cancelled.
The German Open (March 3-8), the Vietnam International Challenge (March 24-29), the Polish Open (March 26-29) have all been postponed, and there are chances that the Indian Open (March 24-29) may also follow suit.
Each nation can enter two players each for the Olympic Games. Therefore, in the men’s singles, Sai Praneeth (10th) and Srikanth Kidambi (12th) can relax, but chances are drying up for the Parupalli Kashyap (25th), HS Prannoy (27th), Lakshya Sen (29th), and Sourabh and Sameer Verma in 30th and 31st respectively.
In the women’s singles, however, PV Sindhu (6th) and Saina Nehwal (18th) are way out in front of Ashmita Chaliha (79th).
In the doubles category, it’s only the men who have a realistic shot; specifically, the 10th-ranked duo of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty but they opted to forego the Super 1000 tournament.
Where you can watch All England Open 2020
The All England Open 2020 will be telecast on Star Sports and will be live-streamed on Hotstar as well.