Bangkok: Premier Indian shuttlers PV Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth need to shrug off the disappointments of the last two weeks as they gear up for the highly-competitive HSBC BWF World Tour Finals, beginning here on Wednesday.
World champion and Olympic silver medallist Sindhu, who had won the prestigious title in 2018, has been clubbed in Group ‘B’ alongside top-ranked Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei and home favourites Ratchanok Intanon and Pornpawee Chochuwong.
Sindhu’s comeback to international badminton after the coronavirus-induced break was not as good as she would have expected. The Indian, who has been training in London for the last few months, couldn’t go the distance after losing a close opening match in Thailand Open, the first of the Asia leg.
In the second event last week, Sindhu suffered a demoralising straight game defeat against former world champion Ratchanok in the quarterfinals and she will have to gather herself as she opens her campaign against magician Tzu Ying, who reached the finals in both the Thailand Opens.
Former world number one Srikanth, on the other hand, has been clubbed in Group ‘B’ with Denmark’s Anders Antonsen, Chinese Taipei’s Wang Tzu Wei and Hong Kong’s NG Ka Long Angus. Srikanth, who had reached the semifinals of BWF Super Series Masters Finals in 2014, couldn’t spend enough time on the court.
He had pulled out of the first Thailand Open ahead of the second round due to a calf muscle pull, while he was forced to withdraw after the opening round last week after his roommate B Sai Praneeth tested positive for Covid-19. Placed 17th in the Road to Bangkok Final ranking after the first event, Sindhu jumped to number 10 after a quarterfinal finish last week and qualified for the season finale due to two rules laid down by the BWF.
First, only two players from a nation can make it to the singles draw, which ruled out Thailand’s Busanan Ongbamrungphan as higher-ranked Rathchanok and Pornpawee made the cut. The second one was the week-long mandatory quarantine period for players, which ruled out Chinese and Japanese players as they had withdrawn from the Asia leg due to Covid-19. Srikanth was rewarded for his quarterfinal finish at Denmark Open Super 750 last October as he sneaked into the top-8 and managed to maintain his position, despite playing just the first rounds in the last two events.
The Indian duo will have a tough task taming their rivals in the tournament, going by their recent performances and head-to-head records. Sindhu has a dismal 5-15 record against Tzu Ying, who beat the Indian in their last two meetings, while Ratchanok humiliated her last week in a lop-sided quarterfinal to enjoy a 5-4 record. Against Pornpawee, her third opponent in the group, Sindhu has a 3-1 record but the Thai had defeated the Indian in their last clash in 2019.
In men’s singles, Srikanth has beaten his first-round opponent Anderson in 2017 but the Danish is a far more improved player now, having reached the world number three. Against Wang, whom he plays next, Srikanth has a 3-0 record, while he holds a 2-2 head-to-head count against Angus. The delayed Season finale, with a prize money of $1.5 million, features only the top players in men’s and women’s singles and eight pairs in the three double events, divided into group stages. It will be followed by the knockout, with the top two players/pairs from each group making it to the semifinals.