India’s lone participant in the competition, PV Sindhu, will hope to improve her indifferent form as she bids to defend her BWF World Tour Finals title.
PV Sindhu will be aiming to sign off her season in style as the Indian joins the best of the best for badminton's World Tour Finals in the Chinese city of Guangzhou.
Sindhu will start as defending champion when the action gets underway on Wednesday, but India's sole participant in the tournament will need to show significant improvement in her form of late if she is to be crowned champion once again.
Barring the World Championships triumph, PV Sindhu has had a below-par season thus far, highlighted by a series of pre-quarterfinal eliminations in most competitions.
But having made it to the season-ending event by virtue of her world champion status, the Indian ace will be eager to put her indifferent form aside when she takes to the court at the Tianhe Gymnasium.
Judging by her recent form, though it’s hard to see the shuttler from Hyderabad go far in the competition in China, but Sindhu has time and again proved her merit in the big tournaments.
Struggling for form ahead of the World Championships after early eliminations at the Malaysia Open and the Japan Open, Sindhu was in her elements in Basel as she took the game to her opponents and surprised many with her repertoire of shots to clinch the world title.
Sindhu accounted for the likes of Tai Tzu Ying, Chen Yu Fei and Nozomi Okuhara en route her triumph, and will be eagerly hoping that she can pull off a similar upturn just in time for her title defence at the World Tour Finals.
The draw for the competition was held on Monday, which has Sindhu paired alongside Japan's Akane Yamaguchi, and China's Chen Yufei and He Bingjia. She will take on Yamaguchi first on Wednesday.
The Olympic silver medallist is currently ranked 15th in the world - her potential opponents are the top seven in the world.
Current world number one is Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying, who got the better of the Indian at the French Open earlier this year. The 25-year-old, who suffered an injury at the China Open last month, will be making a comeback at the World Tour Finals and remains a key contender for the title. The Chinese Taipei shuttler enjoys the better head-to-head record against Sindhu, with her disguised drop shots proving too good for the Indian on seven of their last ten meetings.
Apart from Tai Tzu, Sindhu’s other competitors include Yu Fei who bagged six titles in the past season and made it till the semifinals stage in all but one of the competitions. The 21-year-old has been in a rich vein of form this season, winning gold at the Hong Kong Open and the Fuzhou China Open - two of the biggest competitions held last month.
While she has conquered most of her opponents this season, a win over the Sindhu has been elusive for Yu Fei who lost to the Indian at the World Championships and the Indonesia Open this year.
The BWF World Tour Finals 2019 could also see a revival of the Sindhu-Okuhara rivalry which has added some spice to women’s badminton in the past few years. The two played out that thrilling, a two-hour-long match in the final of the 2017 BWF World Championship, which was dubbed by many the ‘match of the year.’
Okuhara emerged victorious with a scoreline of 21-19, 20-22, 22-20 on that occasion but Sindhu exacted her revenge the next two seasons at the World Championships, with the game in 2019 lasting a mere 38 minutes.
Sindhu holds the slender advantage in the head-to-head record against Okuhara, but the Japanese shuttler has been in better form this campaign, having made it to the final in four tournaments thus far.
The other women’s singles shuttlers in the fray will be Akane Yamaguchi of Japan and Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand - both of whom have had better seasons than Sindhu. Nevertheless, the Indian shuttler’s big game prowess cannot be understated heading into the BWF World Tour Finals 2019.
In the men’s singles, Japanese sensation Kento Momota has had a surreal season thus far, and the World Tour Finals presents an opportunity to end 2019 in the best way possible. Since August, the 25-year-old has won all but of the competitions that he participated in, including the 2019 BWF World Championships. The only person to beat him in that interim wasAnthony Ginting, who defeated him in straight games at the French Open.
Momota’s stellar defensive game and brisk movements across to the court has been a nightmare for fellow shuttlers, and much of the same can be expected to continue come the World Tour Finals.
In the men's doubles segment, the Indonesian pair of Marcus Gideon and Kevin Sukamuljo, fondly nicknamed as the ‘minions’ have been the most dominant team. The duo has won seven titles this year and will be the favourites heading into the World Tour Finals next week.
The eight participating shuttlers will be split into two groups of four where each participant will play the other three in their group once.
After the group stage is done, the top two ranked players advance to the semifinals, where the winner of the first group plays the runner-up of the second group and vice versa. The winners of the two semifinals then play each other in the final.
The games of the BWF World Tour Finals will be broadcast on the Star Sports Network and Hotstar from Wednesday (December 11) at 8:30 am IST.