With three evenly-matched teams, Group C promises the most heated contests in the group stage of the TotalEnergies BWF Sudirman Cup Finals 2023 in Suzhou.
And while all the attention will be on Malaysia, Chinese Taipei and India, the fourth team – Australia – would want to prove they are no pushovers.
The men in the Indian contingent will still have fresh memories of having taken their country to an unprecedented Thomas Cup title a year ago. Kidambi Srikanth, HS Prannoy, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Chirag Shetty, Dhruv Kapila and MR Arjun were in that Thomas Cup-winning team, and in the company of Pusarla V Sindhu, Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand Pullela at Suzhou, the Indians will be confident of a good showing. India have never won a medal in the 17 editions of the Sudirman Cup; this edition presents a great opportunity for Pusarla and Co to add a major team medal to their impressive list of individual accomplishments.
Of the five categories, India have lagged in mixed doubles in recent times. Tanisha Crasto’s regular partner Ishaan Bhatnagar isn’t on the team, and Crasto could be fielded with Sudirman Cup debutant Sai Pratheek. Given that Rankireddy and Ashwini Ponnappa have previously combined – with some good results – the Indians could unveil that combination too.
Rankireddy/Shetty’s recent Badminton Asia Championships title, and Jolly/Pullela’s semifinal performance at the All England, will have the team in a confident frame of mind, although the men’s singles (Prannoy, Kidambi) have had a quiet season, and Pusarla’s best was a runner-up finish at the Madrid Spain Masters.
Malaysia have a team with several strong mixed doubles players/pairs (Goh Soon Huat/Lai Shevon Jemie; Tan Kian Meng/Lai Pei Jing; Chen Tang Jie/Toh Ee Wei; Hoo Pang Ron/Teoh Mei Xing; Valeree Siow). The one concern for Malaysia will be women’s singles, as Goh Jin Wei hasn’t had much to relish on the circuit; the second choice will be 19-year-old Letshanaa Karupathevan, who has yet to play on the HSBC BWF World Tour.
That apart, Malaysia are well provisioned in the other departments, through players like Lee Zii Jia, Ng Tze Yong, Aaron Chia/Soh Wooi Yik, Ong Yew Sin/Teo Ee Yi and Pearly Tan/Thinaah Muralitharan.
Chinese Taipei have dependable singles (Chou Tien Chen, Tai Tzu Ying) and men’s doubles (Lee Yang/Wang Chi-Lin; Lu Ching Yao/Yang Po Han), but it’s the women’s and mixed doubles that the other teams will spot opportunities in. Their top women’s pairs, Lee Chia Hsin/Teng Chun Hsun and Hsu Ya Ching/Lin Wan Ching, have had modest results in recent months, while in mixed doubles, the likely combination is Yang Po-Hsuan/Hu Ling Fang, who too haven’t had much to write home about.
That leaves Australia, who will hope to make an impression despite being distinct underdogs in the group. Nathan Tang (men’s singles) and Tiffany Ho (women’s singles) have a formidable task in the singles; Gronya Somerville will likely do double duty with Kenneth Zhe Hooi Choo in the mixed and Kaitlyn Ea in the women’s doubles.