All England 2023 preview: Tempered hopes and a very tough draw for Indians

PV Sindhu has not been in the best form since her triumph in the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

The All England Open is a legacy tournament that holds a special place in Indian badminton given the victories of Prakash Padukone (1980) and Pullela Gopichand (2001).

No other Indian has since won the Super 1000 but the 2022 edition saw rising star Lakshya Sen play the final and reserves Gayatri Gopichand and Treesa Jolly reach the semifinal.

However, ahead of this year's edition there are more questions, fewer hopes and a hornet's nest of a draw for Indian badminton stars. None of the singles players are even seeded this time. Yet, the only Indian seeds, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, had a bit of fortune with their nemeses, Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (aka the 'Minions'), who they were set to face in the first round, pulling out.

India's top players have not exactly had the best start to the year with PV Sindhu making a slow comeback from injury, Satwik getting injured and indifferent results from men's singles in the first two months of the year. At the same time, India clinched a bronze medal at the Badminton Asia Mixed Team Championship last month with an all-round team effort.

In such a background, it's hard to predict Indians' chances and the draw doesn't help. Here's a closer look at the Indians in action:

Men's singles

HS Prannoy vs Wang Tzu Wei

Lakshya Sen vs Chou Tien Chen

Srikanth Kidambi vs Toma Junior Popov

From the Indian perspective, all eyes will be on last year's runner up Lakshya to see if can replicate that run. The 21-year-old has been suffering from a form of second-year syndrome, starting this season with two first-round and a second-round loss at the India Open, where he was the defending champion. He had a good run at the Indonesia Masters in January, reaching the third round and beating Kodai Naraoka, but lost to lower-ranked Toma Junior Popov just last week.

The route to another final at Birmingham won't be easy as he starts against fifth seed Chou Tien Chen, a player he is yet to beat in two meetings. If he gets his first win over him, he will face the winner of Anders Antonsen and Rasmus Gemke, with No 3 Anthony Sinisuka Ginting a potential quarterfinal opponent.

HS Prannoy is in the same quarter as Sen, of course, and we could have the eighth clash between the two Indians in the last one year. But first, Prannoy will face Wang Tzu Wei, who he has a 4-3 record against, with a potential second-round against Ginting.

Srikanth, yet to win a BWF match in 2023, starts against Popov (1-1 in H2H) and has a potential clash with Japanese seventh seed Kodai Naraoka, who is struggling physically after a sensational start to the year. Lee Zii Jia is the other seed in this section.

Women's singles

PV Sindhu vs Zhang Yi Man

Sindhu is usually a contender in whichever tournament she plays, but the All England is one she hasn't reached the final of yet. With her slow start after a five-month injury layoff and a change in coaching, her form remains uncertain.

She starts against Zhang Yi Man, who she has a 1-1 record against. If she wins, she will play fifth seed and familiar foe He Bing Jiao, who has a 10-9 record against the Indian. Third seed Tai Tzu Ying is the other seed in this quarter, who has a 17-5 H2H. Talk about a rough draw.

Saina Nehwal, the 2015 finalist, was to face Han Yue but has since pulled out of the tournament.

Men's Doubles

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty vs Krishna Prasad Garaga-Vishnuvardhan Goud Panjala

MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila vs Ren Xiang Yu and Tan Qiang

There are only two high-profile pairs that Sat-Chi are yet to defeat, and they are desperate to get one over them. With the 'Minions' pulling out, however, only one of them are in their quarter at All England.

The sixth seeds were set to open against the 'Minions', who had an 11-0 advantage over them. Kevin Sukamuljo has yet to recover from a bout of dengue though, resulting in their withdrawal.

The Indian pair of Krishna Prasad Garaga-Vishnuvardhan Goud Panjala have been promoted from the reserves and will face their teammates Sat-Chi first up. This is their first meeting on the BWF tour and could be easier return from injury for Satwik. The sixth seeds will likely play India Open champions Liang Weikeng and Wang Chang, who beat them in the semis in Malaysia. And if they reach the quarters, they could face second seeds Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik, who lead their H2H 7-0.

With Satwik just coming from injury that forced the defending champions to pull out of the India Open, there is no form guide. But as they have proven time and again, they are big-game players and despite the odds, Sat-Chi will be India's biggest hope in Birmingham.

The other Indians in the draw are MR Arjun and Dhruv Kapila, who start against Ren Xiang Yu and Tan Qiang, a Chinese pair they have never played before. A win could see them take on fifth seeds Liu Yu Chen and Ou Xuan Yi.

Women's doubles

Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand vs Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Rawinda Prajongjai

Ashwini Bhat and Shikha Gautam vs Baek Ha Na and Lee So Hee

Last year, All England was the major breakthrough for teenagers Treesa and Gayatri as they reached the semis after being promoted from the reserves. This year, the world No 19 pair have a tough start against seventh seeds Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Rawinda Prajongjai, who have a 4-0 lead over them.

But Treesa & Gayatri have built up a good momentum in the last one month. They were unbeaten at the Badminton Asia Mixed Team Championship with statement wins over bogey pair Pearly Tan-Thinaah Muralitharan as well as against China in the semis, and the also won the national championship.

Ashwini Bhat and Shikha Gautam start against Baek Ha Na and Lee So Hee, who they are playing for the first time. If they win, they will be up against second seeds Nami Matsuyama and Chiharu Shida.