There is little doubt on the top men’s doubles contenders for Tokyo 2020. Marcus Fernaldi Gideon/Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo might not have competed in an international event since March 2020, but given their exceptional achievements over the last few years, they would be expected to top the podium in Tokyo.
Others in the bracket of medal contenders are Hiroyuki Endo/Yuta Watanabe; Hendra Setiawan/Mohammad Ahsan; Li Jun Hui/Liu Yu Chen; Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda, and the pair that shot into the limelight earlier this year for three titles in three weeks of the Asian Leg, Lee Yang/Wang Chi-Lin.
Outside these names, men’s doubles has a few pairs quite capable of turning the tables on the big names in Tokyo.
*Note: The official list of qualifiers to Tokyo 2020 will be notified in due course.
While on song, the Indian duo can set sparks with their quickness and all-round abilities; Shetty is a brilliant interceptor at the net, while Rankireddy possesses one of the hardest smashes in the game. Semifinals at the TOYOTA Thailand Open and the YONEX Swiss Open this year showed they have regained their touch. Having beaten most of the top 10 pairs (except Gideon/Sukamuljo and Kamura/Sonoda), Shetty/Rankireddy will know they have a shot at a medal, and with Mathias Boe as their coach, the Indians can bank on a crafty ally to guide them in sticky situations.
Since making the final of the All England in 2019, which was their breakthrough tournament, the Malaysians have blown hot and cold, but when in form, they are quite a sight with their crisp, classical style. In January they followed up a first-round loss at the YONEX Thailand Open with a run to the final the next week at the TOYOTA Thailand Open.
The Danes have frequently demonstrated major event-winning ability – as they did with the VICTOR China Open in 2018. Yet, they haven’t quite pressed on from there, and have struggled to maintain consistency at the big events. They had a disappointing Asian Leg in January with two first round losses, but made up with a victory at the YONEX Swiss Open and semifinals at the YONEX All England. Given their undoubted abilities, they can go far in Tokyo if they strike form.
The Koreans were one of the fast-improving pairs before the pandemic disrupted the circuit, and in the limited opportunities since, they have shown a solidity that was missing earlier. Winning the YONEX-SUNRISE Hong Kong Open in 2019 was their big moment. At the Asian Leg this year, they were semifinalists at two of the three events. Seo’s left-handedness and ability to find sharp angles gives them a certain degree of unpredictability that might suit them in high-pressure situations.
The Russians are an unorthodox pair, and it is precisely this that makes them so dangerous. Ivanov’s reach and power helps him pick winners with apparent ease, while Sozonov is an ideal foil. Having played in two Olympics, they have the experience of the big stage, and having done well in recent months – they were runners-up at the Denmark Open and winners at the European Championships – they will be bristling with confidence.
The England duo surprised many with their bronze medal at the Rio Olympics, and are one of the few pairs to have improved with age. One of their prized wins in recent months was the Denmark Open last year; in 2021 they were in the quarterfinals of the All England and in the semifinals of the European Championships.
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