PV Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth, the premier India shuttlers, have had a scratchy comeback to international badminton after the coronavirus lockdown last year. Both have endured unfavourable results in the two events they took part earlier this month but will hope to put those events behind and start afresh at the prestigious BWF World Tour Finals that starts from Wednesday in Bangkok.Also Read - Syed Modi International: PV Sindhu Enters Semis; HS Prannoy Bows Out

Sindhu, who won the event in 2018, is in Group B alongside world’s top-ranked female shuttler Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei and local favourites Ratchanok Intanon and Pornpawee Chochuwong. She had been training in London for the past couple of months but the start of the season hasn’t been positive. Also Read - PV Sindhu, Lakshya Sen Enter Semifinals Of India Open

At the Thailand Open, the Olympic silver medallist crashed out after losing in the very first round and then in the second event, progressed to the quarterfinals where she was handed a straight game defeat by former world champion Ratchanok. Also Read - India Open: PV Sindhu Advances After Kidambi Srikanth, 6 Others Test Covid Positive

Sindhu kicks off her campaign against in-form Tzu Ying, who made the finals in both the Thailand Opens.

On the other hand, former world number one Srikanth, has been put in Group B alongside Denmark’s Anders Antonsen, Chinese Taipei’s Wang Tzu Wei and Hong Kong’s NG Ka Long Angus.

Srikanth, who had reached the semifinals of BWF Super Series Masters Finals in 2014, couldn’t spend enough time on the court. He had pulled out of the first Thailand Open ahead of the second round due to a calf muscle pull, while he was forced to withdraw after the opening round last week after his roommate B Sai Praneeth tested positive for COVID-19.

Placed 17th in the Road to Bangkok Final ranking after the first event, Sindhu jumped to number 10 after a quarterfinal finish last week and qualified for the season finale due to two rules laid down by the BWF.

First, only two players from a nation can make it to the singles draw, which ruled out Thailand’s Busanan Ongbamrungphan as higher-ranked Rathchanok and Pornpawee made the cut.

The second one was the week-long mandatory quarantine period for players, which ruled out Chinese and Japanese players as they had withdrawn from the Asia leg due to COVID-19.

Srikanth was rewarded for his quarterfinal finish at Denmark Open Super 750 last October as he sneaked into the top-8 and managed to maintain his position, despite playing just the first rounds in the last two events.

The Indian duo will have a tough task taming their rivals in the tournament, going by their recent performances and head-to-head records.

Sindhu has a dismal 5-15 record against Tzu Ying, who beat the Indian in their last two meetings, while Ratchanok humiliated her last week in a lop-sided quarterfinal to enjoy a 5-4 record.

Against Pornpawee, her third opponent in the group, Sindhu has a 3-1 record but the Thai had defeated the Indian in their last clash in 2019.

In men’s singles, Srikanth has beaten his first-round opponent Anderson in 2017 but the Danish is a far more improved player now, having reached the world number three.

Against Wang, whom he plays next, Srikanth has a 3-0 record, while he holds a 2-2 head-to-head count against Angus. The delayed season finale, with a prize money of USD 1.5 million, features only the top players in men’s and women’s singles and eight pairs in the three double events, divided into group stages.

It will be followed by the knockout, with the top two players/pairs from each group making it to the semifinals. The draw for the group stage was conducted in Bangkok on Tuesday by BWF and Badminton Association of Thailand (BAT) officials while observing COVID-19 protocols.

With PTI Inputs