It was at the Yonex-Sunrise India Open that it all started for Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo.
Their first World Superseries title as a pair set the tone for what was to unfold as the Indonesians – ranked No.17 before the India Open – captured two more Superseries titles to finish the season at No.2. It wasn’t long before they ascended to the top of the BWF world rankings– courtesy their memorable win at the Yonex All England 2017 in March.
“Yes, we had a great year and we had a great start by winning the India Open,” said Fernaldi, a day before they start their title defence in New Delhi’s Siri Fort Complex. “It was our first Superseries title and it’s nice to be here again. We have a lot of points to defend, so we are keen to do well. This year too we have started well by winning the All England; our partnership is getting better and better. I know as the defending champions there will be expectations, but we don’t want to think too far ahead. I haven’t seen the full draw; I only know we are playing the Chinese Taipei pair (Chen Hung Ling/Wang Chi-Lin) in the first round. They’ve been playing well; they reached the Swiss Open semi-finals.”
The No.4 seeds are in the lower half of the draw, and seeded to face Japan’s Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda or the in-form Mads Conrad-Petersen/Mads Pieler Kolding (Denmark) in the semi-finals.
The top half has the likes of World No.2 Goh V Shem/Tan Wee Kiong (Malaysia); China’s Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen; Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen and Kim Astrup/Anders Skaarup Rasmussen (both Denmark), and No.6 seeds Angga Pratama/Ricky Karanda Suwardi (Indonesia).
The Malaysia/Indonesia combination of Tan Boon Heong/Hendra Setiawan also made it to the top half after easily winning their qualification round matches today, and are set for a potential second round clash against the top seeds.
In Men’s Singles, the withdrawals of top seed Lee Chong Wei (Malaysia) and No.2 seed Jan O Jorgensen (Denmark) have opened up the draw. Local hope Kidambi Srikanth, winner of the event in 2015; Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen, twice runner-up; Hong Kong’s Ng Ka Long; Chinese Taipei’s Chou Tien Chen and Thailand’s Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk might each sense a fair shot at going all the way. For China, which has fielded several upcoming players in other categories, the challenge will be shouldered by Dubai World Superseries Finals runner-up Tian Houwei and qualifier Zhao Junpeng.
Unlike Men’s Singles, Women’s Singles has an array of stars, starting with Olympic champion Carolina Marin (Spain) and home heartthrobs Pusarla V Sindhu and Saina Nehwal.
Defending champion Ratchanok Intanon (Thailand) had a great start to the year by making the All England final, and the attention on the two Indians and Marin might well work to her advantage.
Others to watch include Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi, Nozomi Okuhara and Saena Kawakami, besides second seed Sung Ji Hyun (Korea).
Korea and Japan have fielded strong pairs in Women’s Doubles. Two Korean pairs – Jung Kyung Eun/Shin Seung Chan and All England champions Chang Ye Na/Lee So Hee – are seeded to meet in the final; their prime challengers will be Japan (Naoko Fukuman/Kurumi Yonao and Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota); Thailand’s Jongkolphan Kititharakul/Rawinda Prajongjai and the lone Chinese pair, Tang Jinhua/Huang Yaqiong.
The strongest Chinese contenders among all five categories are Mixed Doubles top seeds Zheng Siwei/Chen Qingchen. After a stellar 2016 season, though, the Chinese are yet to win an event this year and might fancy their chances here.
While they head in as the top seeds, a number of strong challengers lurk in the draw, including Malaysia’s Chan Peng Soon/Goh Liu Ying; Thailand’s Dechapol Puavaranukroh/Sapsiree Taerattanachai (who beat them in the Swiss Open); Japan’s Yuta Watanabe/Arisa Higashino; England’s Chris Adcock/Gabrielle Adcock and second seeds and All England champions Lu Kai/Huang Yaqiong.
Men’s Singles: Zhao Junpeng (China; featured image), Kenta Nishimoto and Kazumasa Sakai (both Japan), Jeon Hyeok Jin (Korea)
Women’s Singles: Rasika Raje, Anura Prabhudesai, Sai Uttejitha Rao, Shreyanshi Pardeshi (all India)
Men’s Doubles: Choi Solgyu/Kim Gi Jung; Kim Jae Hwan/Yoo Yeon Seong (both Korea); Supak Jomkoh/Pakin Kuna-Anuvit (Thailand); Hendra Setiawan (Indonesia)/Tan Boon Heong (Malaysia)
Women’s Doubles: Cynthia Shara Ayunidha/Debora Rumate Vehrenica (Indonesia); Mahima Aggarwal/Maneesha K; Shruti Mundada/Anoushka Parikh (both India); Gabrielle Adcock/Jessica Pugh (England)
Mixed Doubles: Saurabh Sharma/Anoushka Parikh; Dhruv Kapila/Kuhoo Garg (both India); Marcus Ellis/Lauren Smith (England); Kim Jae Hwan/Lee So Hee (Korea)