Commonwealth Games 2022, 50 days to go: Table tennis, badminton players confident of Birmingham success

With the Asian Games 2022 deferred due to COVID, CWG 2022 will be the biggest event for Indian athletes.

By Ali Asgar Nalwala
Picture by 2018 Getty Images

With just 50 days left for the Commonwealth Games 2022 to begin, India’s Birmingham-bound athletes’ preparations are in full swing.

Athletes, coaches, and federations are busy making sure that years of hard work translate to medals when the quadrennial event gets underway from July 28.

Especially with the Asian Games postponed, the Birmingham CWG 2022 will offer the year’s biggest stage for most.

Sathiyan Gnanasekaran, India’s top-ranked men’s singles table tennis player, feels India is ready for the challenge.

“With so many events called off in the last two years, the Asian Games postponement was disappointing initially,” G Sathiyan, who won three medals at the last Commonwealth Games in 2018, told Olympics.com.

“But I think in one way it was beneficial as we can put all of our energy into the Commonwealth Games as it is just one big event this year,” the current world No. 34 men’s singles player added.

While a singles medal at Commonwealth Games is one of the biggest goals for Sathiyan, he will also be one half of India’s best bets in both mixed and men’s doubles. 

G Sathiyan will pair with four-time Olympian Sharath Kamal in men’s doubles. The duo had won silver at the last edition. 

In the mixed doubles, Sathiyan and Manika Batra, who are ranked sixth in the world, will be the top seeds. 

“Last time we won bronze in the mixed doubles with little practice together…This time we are training really well and have had camps in Chennai and Bangalore. We will play together in Zagreb and Budapest before the start of the Commonwealth Games. So we will be looking forward to upgrading our medals at the event.”

Kidambi Srikanth confident ahead of Commonwealth Games

Kidambi Srikanth, who bounced back to form after missing the Tokyo Olympics by winning a world championships silver medal and leading India to a historic Thomas Cup win, feels that he and the other members of the Indian badminton team are well-placed for a successful Commonwealth Games campaign at Birmingham. 

However, a men’s singles gold medal at the Commonwealth Games still eludes India’s former world No. 1 shuttler. 

“My ultimate target is to win gold at the Paris 2024 but I really want to do well at the Commonwealth Games and then the world championships thereafter,” Kidambi Srikanth, currently ranked 11 in the world, told Olympics.com.

Speaking about the Indian team which will have the likes of All England Open silver medallist Lakshya Sen, two-time Olympic medallist PV Sindhu, Commonwealth Games doubles gold medallist Ashwini Ponnappa and dynamic men’s doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, Kidambi Srikanth seemed confident of India having the right players to dominate the Commonwealth Games.

“India have the right players to sweep all the badminton gold medals at the Commonwealth Games.” 

However, Kidambi Srikanth also feels that being consistent throughout the tournament will be the Indian shuttlers’ biggest challenge. 

“These big events are kind of two-week-long tournaments. So if we manage to stay consistent for around 10-15 days, I definitely feel we have the right team to go and win.” 

Chirag Shetty-Satwiksairaj Rankireddy saving up for the Commonwealth Games

Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy won the men’s doubles silver at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games and will be looking to do one better at Birmingham.

To cut down chances of injury or fatigue heading into the big event, the duo has decided to be selective about tournaments they participate in before the Commonwealth Games begin in July.

“Since it is a long event, we want to be fully fit for the Commonwealth Games. So we have cut down on our participation in the two to three BWF World Tour events that are before the Commonwealth Games,” Chirag Shetty told Olympics.com.

The duo, however, will participate in the Malaysia Open, scheduled to be held later this month. Malaysia Open will be this year’s first BWF Super 750 event. “We will have a good three weeks to prepare for the Commonwealth Games after the Malaysia Open.”

Of late, Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy have been consistently challenging the domination of Malaysian and Indonesian doubles pairs on the world stage. Their talent was on full display during India’s historic Thomas Cup win. The world No. 8 Indian duo lost only one out of their six matches at the Thomas Cup. 

Earlier in the year, Chirag Shetty, 24, and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, 21, upstaged Indonesia’s three-time world champions Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan to win the India Open and clinch their second BWF Super 500 title. 

At the last edition of the CWG, India won 66 medals, including 26 golds, to finish third, behind hosts Australia (80 golds out of 198 medals) and England (45 golds out of 136) in the medals table.

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