Wednesday, May 15, 2019
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO
China will want to avoid unpleasant early surprises at the TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2019 when they take on India and Malaysia in Group 1D.
Not many expect China to have a problem topping the group, but India could pose some problems, given their strength in singles.
Kidambi Srikanth, Sameer Verma, Saina Nehwal and Pusarla V Sindhu will be carrying India’s singles hopes. Kidambi has struggled to clear the quarterfinal stage in eleven of his last 13 tournaments, with his runner-up place at the India Open and a semifinal in Denmark the silver linings. Still, on his day he can expect to hold his own against any opponent.
India’s women’s singles ace Saina Nehwal has had some good performances this year – she was in the semifinals of the Malaysia Masters, won the Indonesia Masters, and made three quarterfinals.
Both Kidambi and Sehwal have beaten China’s best singles players – and that will give them the confidence to replicate the feat, especially since the pressure will be on the home team.
Nehwal’s compatriot Pusarla V Sindhu has been woefully out of form this season; it will be interesting to see how she is used in the campaign.
With Satwiksairaj Rankireddy returning from injury, India’s men’s doubles and mixed doubles will be bolstered.
All three Indian pairs have a mammoth task against China, and will realistically be looking at getting the better of Malaysia.
Malaysia are likely to bank on Lee Zii Jia in the men’s singles and Goh Jin Wei or Soniia Cheah in the women’s singles. In both departments, India hold the edge, and Malaysia will need their doubles to come good.
With promising performances this year from Aaron Chia/Soh Wooi Yik and Ong Yew Sin/Teo Ee Yi in men’s doubles; Chow Mei Kuan/Lee Meng Yean in women’s doubles; and Goh Soon Huat/Shevon Jemie Lai and Tan Kian Meng/Lai Pei Jing in mixed doubles, Malaysia can nurse hopes of making the quarterfinals.
China have very few problems to worry about. Pairs like Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen (men’s doubles) and Zheng Siwei/Huang Yaqiong (mixed doubles) are at the top of their game. Chen Yufei has grown into her role as China’s women’s singles spearhead, and Chen Qingchen/Jia Yifan, who had a poor spell late last year, have struck form this season, winning three of their last four tournaments.
With men’s singles in the reliable hands of Chen Long and Shi Yuqi, China will be confident of winning their 11th title. However, neither India nor Malaysia have anything to lose while taking on the second seeds, and a couple of upsets could well change the complexion of the tie.