Badminton Year In Review: Forgettable year for Indian shuttlers in a COVID-19-marred 2020

COVID-19 pandemic badly impacted the sporting industry and badminton’s case was no different as BWF had to cancel several tournaments. It also left the players disheartened as they were preparing for the Tokyo Olympics 2020 – which was also postponed till 2021.

Malaysia Open was the first tournament of the year and it was a disappointing one for the Indian shuttlers as none of the male singles players could cross the round two of the World Tour Super 500 held in Kaula Lumpur.

While in the women’s singles, star shuttler PV Sindhu – who was reigning BWF World Champion – was defeated by World number one Tai Tzu Ying in the quarter-finals. Saina Nehwal too made it to the quarter-finals but the London Olympics bronze medallist was ousted by Rio Olympics Gold medal winner Carolina Marin of Spain.

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty bowed out in the round one itself in the men’s doubles. In the mixed doubles, Pranaav Jerry Chopra and N Sikki Reddy also lost in the first round.

In the Indonesia Masters World Tour Super 500, none of the men’s singles players could go past the first round which was the second disappointment for the Indians. Saina also made the exit from the first round, while Sindhu was dismissed in the second round. Satwik and Chirag’s pair also failed to impress as they were defeated in the first round.

The story was the same for the Indian shuttlers in Thailand Masters as none of them failed to cross the first round. Late, in the Barcelona Spain Masters tournament, shuttler Ajay Jayaram made it to the semi-finals but he was defeated by Kunlavut Vitidsarn of Thailand.

In the All England Championship, fate was the same for male shuttlers – as they once again failed to cross the round two. In the women’s singles category, everyone pinned hope from Sindhu but the Hyderabadi shuttler was defeated by her long-time rival Nozomi Okuhara of Japan in the quarter-finals.

India Junior International Grand Prix 2020 and Hyderabad Open were cancelled due to the pandemic. Other major tournaments such as US Open, German Open, Canada Open, Taipei Open, Korea Open, China Open, Japan Open, Dutch Open, Denmark Masters, Indonesia Open, Malaysia Open and Thailand Open were all cancelled by the BWF due to the pandemic.

The male shuttlers had a forgettable 2020 as big names like B Sai Praneeth, Kidambi Srikanth and Parupalli Kashyap failed to make it to the top 10 in the singles rankings. Sindhu too saw a slump in the rankings as she dropped to seventh in the women’s singles rankings.

Satwiksairaj and Chirag’s pair, however, managed to remain at 10th position in the men’s doubles category.

The lockdown and home isolation helped the players stay at their respective homes and relax. The shuttlers spent time with their families and practised at home until the stadiums were reopened by the BAI. The break gave a chance to almost every shuttler to recuperate from their injuries and also got the time to introspect and focus on the ways they could improve their performance on the court. The break also gave them an opportunity to try something new at home.

While Sindhu is training with British shuttlers Toby Penty and Rajiv Ouseph in England and trying to learn from the experience. The Hyderabadi player is planning to return on the court in January.

The international action is slowly returning as the world prepares for the new normal. The BWF has announced a revised schedule which irked several players as the tournaments will be happening in quick succession, with the players having not much time to prepare for the next tournament.

Indian badminton players are now setting their eyes on the Asian leg of the BWF World Tour, which kicks off in January. The year 2020 – which was the Olympic year – has been a tad disappointing for the shuttlers but they are also coming to grips with new normal and preparing themselves mentally to strictly follow the protocols in the biosecure bubbles in order to prevent themselves from infection.

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