Satwiksairaj Rankireddy And Chirag Shetty At The Forefront As Indians Chase Glory At All England

Newly-crowned French Open champions Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty will be expected to continue their rich vein of form, while the seasoned P V Sindhu will hope to ace a trial by fire to end India’s 23-year-old title drought at the All England Championships starting on Tuesday. Prakash Padukone (1980) and Pullela Gopichand (2001) are the only ones from India to have claimed the title with Saina Nehwal (2015) and Lakshya Sen (2022) coming close when they finished runner-ups. The prestigious tournament holds an iconic status in India but over the years, its exclusivity has somewhat dwindled as it is now one of the four Super 1000 event on the international calendar.

Satwik and Chirag have already won a Super 1000 title in Indonesia last year and given their stellar run this season, expectations would be high when the two towering shuttlers take the court this week, following their exploits at Paris on Sunday night

Satwik and Chirag, the Asian Games champions, have bossed their opponents this season, reaching three finals — Malaysia Super 1000, and India Super 750 before winning at Paris — and will remain India’s biggest hopes of a title finish at the Utilita Arena Birmingham here.

Standing in front of them in the opening round will be the veteran Indonesian pair of Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan, the three-time world champions. They have caused a lot of heartbreaks for the Indians in the past.

The ‘Daddies’ had defeated Satwik and Chirag the last time they faced in the French Open last year and the Indians will be eyeing revenge.

If they cross the opening hurdle, the Indian duo is likely to face the Malaysian pair of Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik. The Malaysians are formidable foes but Satwik and Chirag have defeated them thrice in the last three meetings.

Sindhu will also face an acid test this week with world no. 1 and top seed Korean An Se Young lined up in the second round is the Indian tames Germany’s Yvonne Li, against whom she has a 2-0 record.

Sindhu has shown that she has recovered well from the left knee injury that left her on the sidelines for four months before her campaign in the French Open last week.

With the legendary Padukone by her side, Sindhu matched Olympic champion Chen Yu Fei before marginally falling short in the quarterfinals in Paris.

The 68-year-old Padukone will also be a constant source of inspiration for Lakshya Sen, who received a big boost in his race for Olympic qualification with a semifinal finish at the French Open last week.

Sen will be up against Malaysia’s Ng Tze Yong with a likely clash against fourth seeded Dane Anders Antonsen awaiting him in the second round.

World no. 7 HS Prannoy, who made the semifinal of the India Open in January but bowed out of French Open in the first round last week, will hope to go deep in the draw after opening against Chinese Taipei’s Su Li Yang.

Kidambi Srikanth, who is racing against time to make the cut for Paris, however, will have to play out of his skin as he faces top seed and world no 1 Viktor Axelsen in the opening round, while the young Priyanshu Rajawat will have to fight it out against Indonesia’s Chico Aura Dwi Wardoyo.

The women’s doubles pair of Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand, which has done well in Birmingham having reached back-to-back semifinals in the last two years, will open against the Indonesian combination of Apriyani Rahayu and Siti Fadia Silva Ramadhanti.

Tanisha Crasto and Ashwini Ponnappa too have been in good touch and will be up against Hong Kong’s Yeung Nga Ting and Yeung Pui Lam in the opening round.

The two Indian women’s doubles pairs are fighting for a Paris Olympics spot.

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