Sindhu's slump, Satwik's rise, Srikanth's promise: What we learned from two weeks in Thailand

PV Sindhu suffered a tame defeat against Ratchanok Intanon. Shi Tang/Getty Images

After a slow start at the Yonex Thailand Open, some of India's best badminton players put in impressive displays at the Toyota Thailand Open. While India's wait for a World Tour 1000 title continues, there were some players who stood out. Here are the marks out of ten (only players who won a minimum of one match have been marked):

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy: 9.5

Yonex Thailand Open: Second round (men's doubles), second round (mixed doubles)

Toyota Thailand Open: Semi final (men's doubles), semi final (mixed doubles)

At just 20, Rankireddy became the first Indian player in history to make the semis in two categories at a World Tour 1000 event at the Toyota Thailand Open.

His imposing presence and powerful smashes from deep have always troubled opponents but it's his improved defence and greater agility at the net that has seen him develop into one of India's best doubles players of all time. Only Saina Nehwal has made more Superseries/World Tour 500 and above semis among Indians before the age of 20.

Some critics have suggested than Rankireddy would be better served by giving up mixed doubles and just focusing on men's doubles but he showed that he can achieve significant success in the week gone by.

Chirag Shetty: 9/10

Yonex Thailand Open: Second round (men's doubles)

Toyota Thailand Open: Semi final (mixed doubles)

Easily India's most-improved player over the past couple of years, Shetty's attitude and astuteness has always made him stand out.

At just 23, Shetty's best years are clearly ahead of him. While Rankireddy's all action style of play might fetch more attention and headlines, Shetty is remarkably solid and rarely lets the team down. He's also excellent at controlling the net and his ability to set up play for Rankireddy makes him the ideal partner.

His back court play is improving all the time too and it only seems a matter of time before he and Rankireddy become the first Indians to win a World Tour 1000 title.

Sameer Verma: 7/10

Yonex Thailand Open: First round

Toyota Thailand Open: Quarter final

Despite a disappointing loss to Shesar Hiren Rhustavito in the opening round of the first tournament, Sameer was easily India's best singles player over the past fortnight.

He produced a stunning comeback win over world no. 10 Lee Zil Jia, who has been touted as Lee Chong Wei's successor in Malaysia, and made world no. 3 Anders Antonsen dig really deep in their quarterfinal match.

Sameer's technique and defence is better than most other Indian men's singles players. If he can improve his attack, he might finally be able to crack the top 10 this year after having come agonisingly close in the past.

Ashwini Ponnappa: 7/10

Yonex Thailand Open: First round (women's doubles), second round (mixed doubles)

Toyota Thailand Open: First round (women's doubles), semi final (mixed doubles)

Win or lose, over the course of her more than decade-long career, Ponnappa has always been one of India's most watchable players with her smashes and back court play being a particular standout.

In Rankireddy, she finally has a partner who's as attacking as her and complements her game perfectly.

They defeated two seasoned, top 10 pairs over the past two weeks and also gave a really tough time to the world no. 3 and top-seeded pair of Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai.

Ponnappa would however be disappointed with her women's doubles as she failed to win a game in any of the two matches she played.

Kidambi Srikanth: 5/10

Yonex Thailand Open: Second round

Toyota Thailand Open: Second round

It was pity that Srikanth couldn't play his second-round matches in any of the two tournaments as he completely outmuscled and outclassed both the first round opponents he faced: Sourabh Verma and Sitthikom Thammasin.

He withdrew from the first tournament owing to a calf injury and was forced to withdraw from the second after his roommate B Sai Praneeth tested positive for coronavirus.

Srikanth didn't drop a game in the two matches he won and didn't look like the player who has had to struggle with an assortment of form, confidence and injury-related issues the last two years.

His second-round opponents were Lee and Antonsen, and those matches would have been an accurate indicator of whether Srikanth is truly back to his best. Thankfully, he'll be in action at the World Tour Final this week and we'll have a clearer picture by this time next week.

PV Sindhu: 4/10

Yonex Thailand Open: First round

Toyota Thailand Open: Quarterfinal

Having chosen to train away from the national camp in England, Sindhu had already attracted plenty of attention before stepping on the court in Thailand. She was easily the biggest disappointment from the Indian contingent and her lack of fight in the quarterfinal loss to Ratchanok Intanon was particularly galling.

Sindhu's display in that match was reminiscent of her play before 2016, where she could be irresistible on her good days but rank disappointing on the bad ones. Unlike most others though, she will have a chance to atone for that disappointment at the BWF World Tour Finals later this week.

Of the six seeded players in the women's singles draw in both the tournaments, Sindhu was the only one who failed to make the last eight in the first leg. She also failed to beat the only top 10 ranked opponent she faced and that is a under par return for the reigning world champion.

HS Prannoy: 4/10

Yonex Thailand Open: First round

Toyota Thailand Open: Second round

It was a case of déjà vu for the big-hitting Prannoy as he pulled off a trademark upset against one of the title favourites before losing to a lower-ranked opponent in the next round, in what has been a frustratingly recurrent theme in his career.

Prannoy pushed the prodigiously talented Lee hard before fading in the deciding game, an outcome that could be put down to rust, before stunning Jonatan Christie in the first round after saving multiple match points.

We didn't learn anything new this week. Prannoy can be too hot to handle for even the best in the world on his day, but until he starts putting together a string of wins and learns to be more ruthless, he'll have to be happy with just stunning upsets that end up benefiting the other players in the raw more than him.

MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila: 4/10

Yonex Thailand Open: First round

Toyota Thailand Open: Second round

Arjun and Kapila are still in the early stage of their partnership. The two teamed up after Arjun's long-time partner Shlok Ramchandran retired in 2019 but these were only their second and third tournaments together respectively. They showed enough promise as a pair and are definitely ones to keep an eye on over the rest of the year.

Saina Nehwal: 3/10

Yonex Thailand Open: Second round

Toyota Thailand Open: First round

Facing Ratchanok Intanon in the first round on home territory is one of the more daunting prospects in badminton, but for a player who has always set remarkably high standards, Saina would be disappointed with the margin of loss (17-21, 8-21). This was, afterall, a player who she has an overwhelmingly positive career head-to-head against.

However, the loss that would hurt Saina is the one against Busanan Ongbamrungphan in the second round. With her half of the draw blown wide open by pullouts and upsets, Saina had the opportunity to make a deep run.

Ongbamrungphan is a solid player but she's the kind of honest trier who Saina lost very rarely to in the decade where she was at her prime. It is losses like these that make it clear that we might have to make peace with the fact that Saina's best years are probably behind her.