It’s all systems go for India’s top male shuttler, Kidambi Srikanth, as he emerges from a lengthy six-week rest period to make an assault on the men’s singles crown of the Malaysia Open, the first of four back-to-back World Tour badminton tournaments to be contested on the South-East Asian circuit over as many weeks.
The 24-year-old Indian, who has been seeded fourth despite the fact that he has fallen to the No 7 position in the latest Badminton World Federation (BWF) rankings, has every chance of barging through to the final of the $750,000 prize money event at the newly built Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur Sports City.
At the time the entries closed, a month back, Srikanth was ranked fourth in the world; and has ridden on that advantage to be drawn in the lower half with South Korea’s No 2 seed, Son Wan Ho, against whom he has an even record, trailing 4-5, with a loss in the 2017 World Championships in Glasgow, the most recent occasion that they have played, but a brace of triumphs before that meeting.
The only other seed in this half is Chinese Taipei’s Chou Tien Chen (ranked No 6), while Malaysian Daren Liew has been promoted from among the reserves to take the berth vacated by the erstwhile No 8 seed, HS Prannoy of India. Of course, the dark horse in this tournament is the in-form Japanese left-hander, Kento Momota, who is unseeded and is scheduled to cross swords with Son in the second round.
The top half of the draw is jampacked with big names, led by top-seeded reigning world champion Viktor Axelsen of Denmark, and featuring recently crowned All England champion Shi Yuqi of China (seeded No 3), two-time former world champion Chen Long, also of China (No 5) and Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei (No 7), who has bagged three silver medals at the Olympics and also been runner-up at the World Championships on three occasions, plus one retrospective disqualification for doping.