PV Sindhu has been drawn in a relatively trouble-free group for the BWF World Tour Finals, which is set to take place from December 1-5 in Bali, opening up an almost assured path for herself into the semifinals. Among the other Indians, Kidambi Srikanth too has managed to sidestep landmines in the group stages, while Lakshya Sen finds himself in a particularly testing pool.
The annual year-ending Super 1000 tournament, given the COVID-19 situation and truncated calendar, picked its field from nine tournaments this year. To be eligible for qualification, it was mandatory for players to have played at least one of the recent Indonesia Masters and/or Indonesia Open. Eight players in each event have been drawn into two groups of four, with the top two from each group progressing to the knockout stage.
Easy draw for Sindhu
Sindhu has managed to avoid An Seyoung and Akane Yamaguchi in the group stages of the competition, having suffered against both in recent encounters. She has a 0-2 record against An recently, going down to her in the Denmark Open semifinals while also having lost to Yamaguchi at the Indonesia Masters in what was a thoroughly one-sided affair.
Sindhu's Group A comprises of a much-improved Pornapawee Chochuwong, who recently upset Yamaguchi, and two players ranked outside the top 20 - young Dane Line Christophersen and Germany's Yvonne Li. The 2018 champion will be expected to make the semifinals.
Group of Death for Lakshya
It's going to be a baptism of fire for Lakshya Sen, who finds himself clubbed alongside current men's world No 1 and Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen and world No 2 Kento Momota, in his maiden World Tour Finals. Denmark's Rasmus Gemke, ranked ten in the world, will be the fourth player in his group.
Lakshya has, over recent tournaments, offered an impressive account of himself - scoring an upset win over a top-10 player and making Momota toil for points at last week's Indonesia Open. He will be counting on the experience of facing the top two names often enough and will look to run them close.
Srikanth fancies chances
The former world No 1 Indian has been placed in the relatively lightweight men's singles Group B, which steers clear of both the top two names - Momota and Axelsen. On paper, Srikanth does not have a positive head to head record against any of the other three players in his group - reigning All England champion, Lee Zii Jia, Thailand's rising star and three-time world junior champion Kunlavut Vitidsarn and Toma Junior Popov of France.However, the mix of players is such that on their day, any of them can beat the other.
Ranked No 8 in the world, Malaysia's Lee, whom Srikanth lost to in a close semifinal at the Hylo Open, has been struggling with a back injury over the past few weeks. It resulted in him retiring from his first-round match at the Indonesia Masters and presumably contributed to a first-round exit at the Indonesia Open last week.
No getting away from Minions for Satwik-Chirag
The world No 9 Indian men's doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty find themselves pooled alongside Indonesian duo, 'Minions' Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo and Marcus Fernaldi Gideon. The Indian pair have lost to the Indonesians in all ten occasions they've faced each other so far - most recently, at the Indonesia Open semifinals last weekend.
Tokyo Olympic champions Lee Yang and Wang Chi-Lin have also been drawn in the same pool. The Indian pair will take comfort from the fact that they had defeated the Chinese Taipei pair in the group stages of the Olympics, before the latter went on to finish on the podium. Playing without a full-time coach since the Olympics, the Indian pair will have their task cut out this week.