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Satwik-Chirag soar, Sindhu struggles: A bittersweet 2023 for Indian badminton

As the shuttlecocks settled and the racquets rested, the year 2023 emerged as a mixed bag for Indian badminton fans. With men – particularly the duo of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty – breaking records and securing titles, the seasoned women’s singles stars faced challenges upon their return from injury lay-offs. Let’s delve into the highs and lows, the triumphs, and the struggles that marked the journey of Indian shuttlers on the global stage.

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty; PV Sindhu(File)
Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty; PV Sindhu(File)

Satwik-Chirag’s soaring ascent

The dynamic duo of Rankireddy and Shetty etched their names in badminton history with a remarkable journey in 2023. Their home tournament in January may have ended without a game – Rankireddy faced an injury on the morning of their first-round match at the India Open – but the duo soon made its mark with a bronze in the Badminton Asia Mixed Team Championships.

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They went on to secure their first BWF World Tour title at the Swiss Open. The pinnacle of their success came at the Badminton Asia Championships in Dubai, where they clinched the gold, marking a historic moment for Indian men’s doubles. Triumph continued as they claimed the BWF World Super 1000 title at the Indonesia Open, becoming the first Indian pair to achieve this feat.

The Asian Games witnessed their crowning glory as they bagged the gold in men’s doubles, contributing to India’s medal haul. Their exceptional performances propelled them to the coveted position of World Number 1, a first for Indian doubles players across all categories. Their year concluded with a runners-up finish in the China Masters, solidifying their status as trailblazers in Indian badminton.

HS Prannoy’s resurgence

The 31-year-old stalwart in men’s badminton, Prannoy continued his resurgent run from 2022, showcasing his mettle in 2023. A bronze in the Badminton Asia Mixed Team Championships set the tone for his stellar performances. The Malaysia Masters proved to be a significant milestone as Prannoy clinched his first Super 500 title, triumphing over China’s Weng Hongyang in a thrilling final.

From left, silver medalist China's Shi Yuqi, gold medalist China's Li Shifeng, bronze medalists India's HS Prannoy and Japan's Kodai Naraoka celebrate on the podium during the victory ceremony for the men's singles badminton at the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China(AP)
From left, silver medalist China’s Shi Yuqi, gold medalist China’s Li Shifeng, bronze medalists India’s HS Prannoy and Japan’s Kodai Naraoka celebrate on the podium during the victory ceremony for the men’s singles badminton at the 19th Asian Games in Hangzhou, China(AP)

His consistent form saw him bag silver in the Australian Open and secure bronze in the BWF World Championships men’s singles category. The Asian Games added another feather to his cap as he played a pivotal role in securing silver with the men’s team and securing a historic bronze in the men’s singles event, ending India’s 41-year wait. With the Olympics approaching in 2024, his performances established Prannoy as a force to be reckoned with on the global badminton stage.

PV Sindhu’s struggles

For Sindhu, the former World Champion, 2023 proved to be a challenging chapter. Following a brilliant 2022, Sindhu faced setbacks upon her return from injury. After making a comeback in January, Sindhu encountered early exits in seven tournaments, including the World Championships. The Asian Games witnessed her leading the women’s team, but she couldn’t guide them to a medal, exiting in the quarterfinals.

In the singles event, Sindhu bowed out in the quarterfinals, concluding the year on a subdued note. 2023 also saw Sindhu parting with her long-term coach Park Tae-sang, with Malaysia’s Mohammad Hafiz Hashim becoming her new coach in July.

Srikanth’s form dips, Lakshya’s sole title

Kidambi Srikanth, a seasoned singles star, faced challenges in finding his form on the BWF World Tour and at the Asian Games in 2023. Despite being part of a team that secured a medal, Srikanth’s individual performances saw him reach only the quarterfinals in various events.

Meanwhile, Lakshya Sen faced a challenging year in 2023. The 2022 Commonwealth Games gold medalist – despite being part of the bronze-winning team in the Badminton Asia Mixed Team Championships – failed to revive his individual performances, with the only silver linings coming in the Canada Open, where he secured the men’s singles title.

Ayush Shetty’s junior achievements, Ponnappa teams up with Crasto

Youngster Ayush Shetty left an indelible mark in the BWF World Junior Championships 2023, clinching a bronze medal in Spokane, USA. His promising talent showcased the depth of young talent in Indian badminton.

Tanisha Crasto, Ashwini Ponnappa, Dhruv Kapila, Sathish Kumar Karunakaran, and Kiran George also won titles in the BWF World Tour Super 100 tournaments this year. Crasto won the women’s doubles titles in the Abu Dhabi Masters and Guwahati Masters with senior Ponnappa, and the youngster also won the mixed doubles title in the Odisha Masters with Kapila. Meanwhile, George and Karunakaran won men’s singles titles at the Indonesia Masters Super 100 I and Odisha Masters, respectively, as they made significant strides in becoming prominent players in Indian men’s singles events.

A bittersweet year

As the curtain falls on the badminton courts of 2023, India can take a lot of positives as it enters the Olympic year. The duo of Rankireddy and Shetty remains the strongest hope for a top podium finish in Paris, while the resurgence of HS Prannoy bolsters India’s medal contention in men’s singles. The landscape appears a bit tumultuous for the women’s challenge in Paris, but one can hardly count out PV Sindhu when it comes to major tournaments.

The promise of the next season looms large, with the hope that Indian shuttlers will continue to soar to greater heights and script new chapters in the global badminton narrative.

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