India badminton stars back on courts with Denmark Open, Srikanth in focus

With Saina Nehwal and Parupalli Kashyap withdrawing from the tournament at the eleventh hour, all eyes will be on Srikanth and Lakshya as they resume their title hunt at the Super 750 event.

Former world no 1 Srikanth, who had claimed the Denmark title three years back, had been battling a series of injuries and indifferent form in the last couple of years and the COVID-19 enforced break helped him to work on his body and game.

The 27-year-old will look for a fresh start as he tries to rediscover his old self. He will open against world no 52 Toby Penty of England in the second half of the draw. Lakshya, on the other hand, had been on a title-winning spree last year, claiming as many as five titles, including two BWF World Tour Super 100 top honours – SaarLorLux Open and Dutch Open – to zoom to 32nd in the international standings.

But with the deadly pandemic bringing everything to a halt in March, it has been a frustrating wait for Lakshya, who is currently ranked world No 27.

The 19-year-old from Uttarakhand is now ready to go full throttle when he begins his campaign here with a clash against France’s Christo Popov, who won the first medal for his country at the World Junior Championships last year.

“I have improved a lot and I am in a better shape than last year. It is the first event for everyone, so I can’t expect anything, will just go all out from the start,” Lakshya said.

“I got a lot of confidence after training for the last few months but unless I play matches, put myself in a pressure situation, I won’t be able to assess myself. So I am really excited.”

Besides, Ajay Jayaram and Subhankar Dey too will be aiming to go deep in the men’s singles draw that has been left depleted due to the withdrawals of the Japanese contingent, including world champion Kento Momota, world no 35 Koki Watanabe, world no 11 Kanta Tsuneyama.

Former world no 13 Jayaram, who was missing in action due to a long injury lay-off, was finding his groove early this year when he reached the semifinals at Barcelona Masters.

But the health crisis halted his progress and he can’t wait to go all out when he takes on local favourite and world no 3 Anders Antonsen in the opening round.

For world no 46 Subhankar, Denmark is like a second home as he has had stints in two Danish clubs — Ikast FS badminton club in 2015 and Greve Strands BK in the last few years. The 27-year-old, who had won the 2018 SaarLorLux Open, will cross swords with Canada’s world no 49 Jason Anthony Ho-Shue in the first round.

Subhankar plans to stay back in Denmark after the completion of the tournament to play few matches at the Danish league. Lakshya, Subhankar and Jayaram will also be travelling to Germany for the SaarLorLux Open to be held from October 27 to November in Saarbrucken. Denmark Open is the only tournament to be held this year with BWF forced to move the World Tour Finals (Jan 27-31) and the two Asia opens (Jan 12-17 and Jan 19-24) to Bangkok in January next year.

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