The year 2022 was a hugely significant season for Indian badminton, with a historic first-ever Thomas Cup win, PV Sindhu and Lakshya Sen winning the singles golds at the Commonwealth Games and several firsts for the men's doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty. The profile of the sport has risen along with the number of Indian players in the top 20.
The key now is to carry this momentum in 2023, a crucial season with the delayed 2022 Asian Games and the start of the 2024 Paris Olympic qualifying cycle.
All this alongside the annual calendar, which from this year has been expanded both quantitatively and qualitatively. There are more tournaments - more Super 1000, Super 750, and Super 500 tournaments interspersed throughout the season. That means almost every event will have a bearing on players' season, and consistency will be prized more than moments of brilliance.
Last year, for example, HS Prannoy was the sole Indian qualifying for the season-ending BWF World Tour Finals despite Sen and Satwik-Chirag having a breakthrough year (Sindhu was injured). In the last Olympic cycle, only B Sai Praneeth qualified in men's singles.
With this context, managing the loaded 2023 BWF calendar will be an important factor for Indian badminton. Here's how the calendar looks:
The season begins with the Malaysia Masters and the India Open, upgraded to Super 1000 and Super 750 respectively.
Last year, Lakshya Sen and Satwik-Chirag won the India Open Super 500 to kickstart their seasons. However, a tough draw tempering expectations.
The Badminton Asia Mixed Team Championships will be held from February 14 in Dubai, with a competitive field for India's stars expected.
The prestigious All England Open begins on March 14th. In 2022, Lakshya Sen reached the final after a phenomenal run while the women's doubles pair of Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand became the first Indian duo to reach the semis.
The Badminton Asia Championships, an individual event, will be held from April 25, also in Dubai like the team event.
The Race to Paris Olympic Qualification period begins in May, running up to April 28, 2024 and will determine India's participation in the next Olympics. The Sudirman Cup Finals (mixed-team Worlds), to take place in Suzhou, China, will be the first eligible ranking tournament. The Indian mixed team, silver medallists at the 2022 CWG, will be aiming to repeat the heroics of the 2022 Thomas Cup.
The Indonesia Open Super 1000 will be held from June 13. The Singapore Open, now a 750, will have PV Sindhu defend her crown - her biggest BWF World Tour win of 2022.
A relatively quiet month, July will have the Canada Open Super 500, US Open Super 300, Korea Open Super 500 and the Japan Open Super 750.
This year's World Championships will be held in Copenhagen, Denmark from August 20. In 2021, India had two men's singles medallists in Sen and Kidambi Srikanth. In 2022, Satwik-Chirag won bronze, the first men's doubles medal for India. Expecting a larger haul in 2023 is not without reason.
The Asian Games in Hangzhou, China takes place from September 23 to October 8. Given the level of competition in Asia and India's history at the Games, a medal here will be one of the biggest achievements of the year. India have never won a gold medal at the Asiad, with the one silver coming via PV Sindhu in 2018. The other 9 medals are all bronze. September also has the China Open Super 1000, while October will have upgraded 750s in Denmark and France.
India will host three back-to-back tournaments at the end of the season. This includes the Syed Modi International Super 300 tournament in Lucknow as well as two other Super 100 tournaments, usually helpful for upcoming Indian players.
The season will end with the BWF World Tour Finals in December. Only the top 8 in the world qualify - will there be more than one Indian this year? We have a whole season to find out.