Indonesia Open: PV Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth eye success after barren World Tour

PV Sindhu has a favourable draw in the 2021 Indonesia Open. Shi Tang/Getty Images

After PV Sindhu's impressive run at the Tokyo Olympics, where she medaled for the second successive Games, India's top badminton players would have eyed a title or two when the World Tour resumed with the Denmark Open last month.

In the four World Tour events since then - French Open, HYLO Open and Indonesia Masters being the others - India's badminton contingent has not won a single title and have not even made a final. Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth and Lakshya Sen have all made one or more semis but the best win by an Indian so far has come from HS Prannoy, who stunned Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen at the Indonesia Masters last week.

With the Indonesia Open being the last tournament before the World Tour Finals and the World Championships next month, here's a look at the key storylines:

Can Sindhu end her title drought in a depleted field?

Sindhu is the reigning World Champion and won bronze at the Tokyo Olympics earlier this year. However, her sole title at the World Tour Level came almost three years ago at the World Tour Finals in 2018.

With four of the five best players in the world - Tai Tzu Ying, Chen Yufei, Nozomi Okuhara and Carolina Marin - skipping these tournaments with a combination of injury (Okuhara and Marin) and self-preservation (Tai and Chen), Sindhu would have fancied her chances of winning at least one of the three tournaments she took part in.

While she has been fairly consistent - she has made two semis and lost in the quarters of the Denmark Open - as the most decorated player in the draw, she ought to be eyeing a better return in the Indonesia Open. The three players she has lost to in those tournaments - Akane Yamaguchi, Sayaka Takahashi and An Se Young - are all in the other half of the draw here. Moreover, she will have happy memories from her last appearance at the tournament, where she went all the way to the final before losing to Yamaguchi.

Sindhu's first real challenge might come in the form of world no. 11 Michelle Li in the quarterfinals but Sindhu will start as the favourite there, since she has won each of her past four matches against the Canadian. Sindhu might then run into her toughest challenge in the tournament, in the form of Ratchanok Intanon.

Sindhu has made the semis in four of the last five tournaments she has taken part in but lost all of them. Intanon won both their previous matches this year in straight games but that was in January. Intanon has struggled with form and injury over the past month, failing to progress beyond the quarterfinals in any of the last four tournaments she has taken part in. It would be interesting to see how the former world champion's body holds up if she does go as far as the last four.

Sindhu, though, is in better form and fitness at the moment and if she gets past Intanon, she will have a chance to most likely avenge her losses against either Yamaguchi or An in the final.

Is Kidambi Srikanth actually on the verge of a turnaround?

After climbing to the heights of world no. 1 in 2018, Srikanth's form has veered from the sublime to the ridiculous as a byproduct of injuries and a lack of confidence. For a player who has been a fixture in the top 10 of the world rankings and India's best men's singles player for the majority of the last decade, the failure to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics must have hurt.

However, he's shown signs of improvement since returning to action at the Sudirman Cup in September. He first showed signs of a resurgence in the first round of the French Open, where he almost beat world no. 1 Kento Momota. That match seemed to have buoyed him with some much-needed confidence as he then made the semis at the HYLO Open and the Indonesia Masters.

He faces a very tricky opener here in the form of compatriot HS Prannoy but he has had the upper hand over the big-hitting Prannoy recently, having defeated him in a lopsided match in the quarterfinals of the Indonesia Masters last week.

The real test of his progress, though, might come in the second round, where he's likely to run into Olympic champion Axelsen. The last time Srikanth defeated a top five opponent in a completed match was the Denmark Open in 2017, when he defeated Axelsen in the quarterfinals. He has since suffered 22 successive losses against top five players in completed matches. Since that quarterfinal in 2017, Axelsen has won each of his four matches against Srikanth without dropping a game.

If Srikanth can turn that record around, he will definitely fancy his chances at the tournament this week.