It is perhaps fitting that on the week they scaled new heights in the world rankings, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty return to the event that set them on this path. Winning the Thailand Open in 2019 was a turning point in their career, as they became the first ever Indian men’s doubles duo to win a Superseries / Super 500 event on the circuit. And they did so by beating some big names on the way, that included the former World Champions and the then reigning World Champions.
Now world No 4, Chirag and Satwik will begin their quest to qualify for Paris 2024 in Bangkok. Having skipped Malaysia Masters, the Asian Champions will be raring to go at the start of a busy period. The draws at the Singapore Open and Indonesia Open to follow in the next couple of weeks haven’t been kind, but for now, all eyes will be on Thailand Open where they have a great record and start the tournament as the top seeds. After winning in 2019, they reached the semifinals in 2020 as well in results that marked their early rise and here, in 2023, they begin the tournament as perhaps the pair to beat.
Chirag and Satwik will begin their campaign against the Danish world No 43 pair of Rasmus Kjaer and Frederik Sogaard, who were promoted from the qualifying rounds after the withdrawal of France’s Lucas Corvee and Ronan Labar. A potential second round tie awaits against former All England champions Muhammad Shohibul Fikri and Bagas Maulana. The other seeded pair in their quarter are the Olympic champions Lee Yang and Wang Chi-Lin but the Taipei duo have been riddled with injuries in recent times.
Thailand Open 2019 kickstarted a super run of results for the Indian youngsters, can 2023 do the same as they look to keep rising on the ladder?
The other Indian men’s doubles pair in the main draw was Krishna Prasad and Vishunvardhan, but they have withdrawn.
In women’s doubles, Ashwini Bhat and Shikha Gautam are the sole pair in contention, while there are no entries in the mixed doubles main draw from India.
Singles stars in fray
PV Sindhu will look to make another deep run after her semifinal exit in Malaysia last week but she is in a stacked women’s singles field this time. Having slid out of the top 10 in rankings (she is now world No 13), Sindhu is unseeded and starts off her campaign against Michelle Li of Canada, who has hit some form herself. Sindhu, however, has a strong Head-to-Head against Li, having won 9 out of their 11 meetings. A potential second-round clash awaits against former Asian champion Wang Zhi Yi. And if she gets past that hurdle, a blockbuster quarterfinal against Carolina Marin is on the cards.
Sindhu has shown glimpses of her best form on her way to the final at Madrid Masters and semifinal last week in Malaysia. But consistency in key moments has eluded her in the bigger matches. She had a good run last year at Thailand Open, reaching the semifinal with a win over Akane Yamaguchi.
Sindhu also has tough draws in the coming weeks at the Singapore Open and Indonesia Open, so it would help her case if she can go all out in Bangkok.
Saina Nehwal is also back in action after a while, and she will take on qualifier Wen Yu Zhang in the first round. The other Indians in the main draw are Malvika Bansod and Ashmita Chaliha (facing each other), with the latter coming through qualification.
The men’s singles main draw of 32 has a strong Indian presence with Srikanth Kidambi, Lakshya Sen, Priyanshu Rajawat, Mithun Manjunath, Sai Praneeth, Sameer Verma and Kiran George in action. Sameer and Kiran came through the qualifying rounds on Tuesday.
HS Prannoy, who ended a long wait for a World Tour title last week in Malaysia, hadn’t entered for Thailand. The headliners will be Srikanth and Lakshya. The former will take on Prannoy’s opponent at the Malaysia Masters final in Weng Hong Yang of China.
Srikanth will likely face third-seeded Chinese Shi Yu Qi who will take on Kiran in the opening round.
Lakshya showed glimpses of good form in his win against Loh Kean Yew last week and will open against Chinese Taipei’s Wang Tzu Wei this week. Lakshya faces a potential second round against All England champ Li Shi Feng, a familiar opponent from his junior days. Should he overcome that, the Indian has a shot at finally making a deep run in a tournament this year.
Orleans Masters winner Priyanshu Rajawat faces a tricky opening round test against Malaysia’s Ng Tze Yong, who was a breakout star at last year’s Commonwealth Games and has defeated Viktor Axelsen this year.