Though the women’s badminton singles top spot in the country is unchallenged, the changing dynamics in men’s singles has thrown up two new faces - Parupalli Kashyap and Ajay Jayaram.
The duo has the toughest draws in the upcoming India Open Super Series, with Kashyap likely to run into Indonesian second seed Taufik Hidayat in the second round, while Malaysian top seed and world no.1 Lee Chong Wei looms large before Jayaram in the opening round.
A quick look at the draws will tell you Chetan Anand is missing, and that Olympian Anup Sridhar will have to slug it out in the qualfiers. Only the fittest are making their way through.
Kashyap, another star player from the Gopichand Badminton Academy in Hyderabad, came into spotlight in June 2009, when he reached the finals of two international tournaments. His popularity went up last year when he won the bronze medal in the Commonwealth Games, and he reached his career-best ranking of 20 early this year.
Mumbai’s Ajay Jayaram has made his way through the senior circuit with ease. He won two international titles and finished runner-up in another last year. His rankings have jumped from No. 71 a year ago to No. 29.
The three seniors - Chetan, Anup and Aravind Bhat - are fast becoming history. A recurring knee injury has kept Chetan out of most tournaments. National champion Bhat has looked more at ease in the national events but has failed to make any impression abroad. Shoulder injuries have added to his woes. Olympian Anup has spent more time nursing an ankle injury.
Kashyap feels injuries have taken a toll on these players. “That’s why I have been working hard on my fitness,” he said.
“I like being in the front and its good to know people have high expectations from me.”
The 24-year-old feels Jayaram has caught up really fast. “He has been in great form and did well in the All England and Swiss Open this year,” Kashyap added.
Jayaram has kept himself busy at a time when the Badminton Association of India has become choosy about who they send for top tournaments. Both play their first round on Wednesday and it will be interesting to see how the two friends fare in the first Super Series event in the country.