The badminton bandwagon shifts to South Korea this week as the globe’s top shuttlers disembark at Incheon, with the Korea Open starting on Tuesday (24 September).
With only nine tournaments left this year, it's another chance for India's players to grab vital ranking points as the clock ticks down to the season-ending BWF World Tour Finals in Guangzhou.
Most of India’s leading shuttlers like PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal and Sai Praneeth are lined up to participate in the Korea Open. This tournament will also feature the men’s doubles pair of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, who upset the odds to win the Thailand Open men’s doubles last month.
India’s men’s singles section though would be slightly weakened heading into this tournament with top-ranked Srikanth Kidambi and seasoned shuttler HS Prannoy withdrawing their participation earlier this month.
Tricky test for Sindhu
The nation’s main hopes would once again be pinned on the recently crowned World Championships winner, PV Sindhu.
The shuttler from Hyderabad will start her campaign with a tricky test against 11th ranked Beiwen Zhang and could meet familiar nemesis Nozomi Okuhara in the quarterfinals if both top shuttlers weather the early storm.
Sindhu would hope to bring her best to the court once again if she is to get through a few tricky ties and get to the final stages.
The Olympic silver medallist will be aiming to rebound from a disappointing performance at last week's China Open, where she was bounced out in the second round.
Easy path for Nehwal?
London Olympics 2012 bronze medallist Saina Nehwal will be another of India’s hopes at the Korea Open, as she faces a relatively smooth path until the quarterfinals. The veteran shuttler though could end up facing fourth-ranked Tai Tzu Ying of Taiwan in the quarters and will need to be at her best to survive in the later stages of the competition.
In the men’s singles category, all eyes would be on Sai Praneeth and Sameer Verma. The former though can expect a baptism by fire as he is pitted against fifth seed Anders Antonsen of Denmark in the very first round.
On the other hand, Verma has a relatively easier first-round game against Hong Kong shuttler Wong Wing Ki Vincent but could be drawn against world number six Jonatan Christie of Indonesia in just the second round. The Indian men’s singles players could expect a rocky road in Incheon with all of the top-ranked shuttlers participating in the competition.
The men’s doubles section also could prove to be a tricky proposition for India as the top-ranked pair of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy has been drawn against fourth seeded Keigo Sonoda and Takeshi Kamura. The Japanese pair defeated the Indians in the China Open recently and have been in good form this calendar year.
Apart from Rankireddy and Shetty, the Indian brigade would have the likes of Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy plying their trade in the 2019 Korea Open.
Make way for Marin
Outside of the Indian contingent, Carolina Marin will continue her comeback from a knee injury.
The Olympic champion won the China Open last week in only her second tournament back after an eight-month lay-off.
Due to that enforced absence, Marin is unseeded in Incheon and will open up against the number two seed Chen Yu Fei of China.
Where to watch
There will be no television broadcast for the 2019 Korea Open; but the show court matches be live streamed on the BWF Badminton YouTube page.