International badminton returns for the 2023 season on Tuesday with the newly upgraded Malaysia Open Super 1000. The tournament will kickstart a big season for Indian badminton, as the top players look to carry forward the momentum of 2022 into an important year that has Asian Games, Asian Championships and the start of Olympic qualification.
The season-opening tournament also mark the return of India No. 1 PV Sindhu after a six-month long injury layoff; the longest in her career so far.
India's singles players have been handed a particularly rough draw, with yet another early meeting between Lakshya Sen and HS Prannoy while Sindhu will start against Carolina Marin.
Here's a look at the draws and chances of Indian badminton stars at the Malaysia Open:
Kidambi Srikanth vs. Kenta Nishimoto
Lakshya Sen vs. HS Prannoy
There is not much to say about this draw except repeat what Prannoy tweeted: "Lakshya Sen looks like Tournament Software wants to see only us playing against each other in all tournaments."
The two highest ranked Indians in men's singles will play each other in the first round for the first two tournaments of 2023... after playing each other five times in 2022. This despite the latest, unfrozen rankings showing Prannoy to be the India No. 1, which means he will be seeded at later events.
@lakshya_sen looks like Tournament Software wants to see only us playing against each other in all tournaments ��
7th meeting in last 1 year ��You got to be kidding me �� https://t.co/2EaElQuPf6
- PRANNOY HS (@PRANNOYHSPRI) December 28, 2022
For now though, we have to more Lakshya vs. Prannoy matches to go, with the younger leading their current head-to-head 3-2. Whoever wins in Malaysia, will go on to play the winner of the match between Hans-Kristian Solberg Vittinghus and Chico Aura Dwi Wardoyo. The other seed in the quarter (after seventh seed Lakshya) is second-seeded Lee Zii Jia, who starts his campaign against Japanese rising star Kodai Naraoka.
In the other half of the draw, Srikanth starts against Kenta Nishimoto against whom he holds a 5-1 record, although they last played in 2019. If he wins, his second round opponent could be fifth seed Jonatan Christie with a potential quarterfinal against top seed Viktor Axelsen.
PV Sindhu vs. Carolina Marin
Saina Nehwal vs. Han Yue
Aakarshi Kashyap vs. Wen Chi Hsu
Malvika Bansod vs. An Se Young
India will have four participants in women's singles this time, which is a good sign despite the draw.
Sindhu, seeded sixth, will play her first match since the Commonwealth Games gold medal in August against old rival Carolina Marin, who has been on an injury comeback trail since last year. Marin holds a 9-5 record against Sindhu and has won the last three matches they played. The winner will play either or Pornpawee Chochuwong and Yeo Jia Min with Olympic champion Chen Yu Fei the other seed in the quarter.
Saina Nehwal will start against China's Han Yue, who have a split 1-1 head-to-head record. If she wins, she will be up against third seed Tai Tzu Ying, who has a 15-5 record against the Indian. He Bing Jiao is the other seed in the quarter.
Aakarshi Kashyap will take on Chinese Taipei's Wen Chi Hsu in the opener in what will be the first meeting between the two. If she wins, she will be up against fifth seed He Bing Jiao.
Malvika Bansod will have a tough start on her hands, having drawn Korean second seed An Se Young. If she comes through, she will play the winner of Yvonne Li vs Goh Jin Wei.
Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty vs. Choi Sol Gyu and Kim Wan Ho
Krishna Prasad Garaga and Vishnuvardhan Goud Panjala vs. Kang Min Hyuk and Seo Seung Jae
The men's doubles holds India's strongest chances of silverware in the tournament via world No. 5 Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty. The seventh seeds start against South Korea's Choi Sol Gyu and Kim Wan Ho who the Indian pair beat en route to the French Open trophy last year, in their only match. Their second round opponents could be Indonesians Muhammad Shohibul Fikri and Bagas Maulana, who are reigning All England champions but have a 0-2 record against the Indian pair in 2022.
The big challenge for them will be a potential quarterfinals against nemesis and home favourites Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik, who they are yet to beat in seven meetings. In fact, Satwik told ESPN that beating the Malaysian pair is one of his goals for 2023. Can this time be the charm?
The other Indian pair in action will be Thomas Cup winners Krishna Prasad Garaga and Vishnuvardhan Goud Panjala who will open against Kang Min Hyuk and Seo Seung Jae in what is their first meeting. The winners will play top seeds Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi in the second round.
Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand vs. Yeung Nga Ting and Yeung Pui Lam
Ashwini Bhat and Shikha Gautam vs. Supissara Paewsampran and Putita Supajirakul
CWG bronze medallists Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand will start against Hong Kong's Yeung Nga Ting and Yeung Pui Lam in what will be their first meeting. If they win, they take on their nemesis pair -- eighth seeds Pearly Tan and Thinaah Muralitharan. The top seeds Chen Qing Chen and Jia Yi Fan are also in their quarter.
The other Indian pair in the draw are Ashwini Bhat and Shikha Gautam who start against Thailand's Supissara Paewsampran and Putita Supajirakul. The pairs have not played each other before.