2023 Malaysia Open | MR Arjun/Dhruv Kapila to miss season opener due to injury

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The youthful Dhruv Kapila and MR Arjun quietly turned a corner to become the nation's second-best men's doubles partnership as Indian badminton celebrated its extraordinary triumph in an epoch-making season. The duo, however, is going to miss the Malaysia Super 1000 owing to an injury.

Although Dhruv, 22, from Punjab and Arjun, 25, from Kerala didn't achieve the same heights as their more accomplished countrymen Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty (ranked 5th), the pair nevertheless performed well enough to move up from 42 to 19 in the global rankings in just a year.

They will, however, be absent from the Malaysia Super 1000 competition next week owing to an injury. The pair is also a questionable starter for the India Open, which was elevated to a Super 750 competition starting this season.

"I had this injury while training during French Open, so I had withdrawn from Hylo Open. I felt I had recovered but I felt discomfort again while we started training a few weeks back, so now I am in Mumbai to address it," Arjun said. "It is nothing major, I have been advised to start rehab, and depending on how I do this week, will take a call. So we have withdrawn from Malaysia Open. I am not sure about India Open as of now, my main priority is to get my fitness back as it is an important year for us."

Talking about their game, Arjun said: "We have to improve our defense. Our speed and attack are even better than many pairs in top 20 but we need to learn to survive in the rallies, it will help to consistently reach the quarters and semis. Dhruv, on the other hand, credited Satwik and Chirag's quick ascension for their success.

"I think overall India is progressing in men's doubles, especially with Satwik and Chirag doing so well. We practice with them regularly and it motivates us. We have improved a lot by practicing with them," he said. "Both of them are always keen to help us and also Arjun himself is also quite experienced. He has been playing for 5 to 6 years now, so I believe we are improving step by step," he said.

They have the self-confidence to push the boundaries even further in 2023 thanks to victories against more highly regarded opponents, quarterfinal finishes in significant global tour competitions, such as the BWF World Championships, and the Thomas Cup champion title.

"I would rank Thomas Cup win high up there even though we didn't play in the knockout stage. Our performance in the season can be divided into pre and post Thomas Cup because it gave us immense confidence to convert the three setters into wins and it reflected in our performance," Arjun told PTI.

"Our world championships performance also stands out, to make the quarterfinals was a big deal." "We also did well in Indonesia Super 1000 (second round), Singapore 500 (quarterfinal), and won an India challenger, the performances have given us confidence that we are progressing," Dhruv added.

The pair defeated Goh Sze Fei and Nur Izzuddin of Malaysia ranked 10th in the world, at the Singapore Open before falling to Hendra Setiawan and Mohammad Ahsan of Indonesia, ranked 2nd in the world, in three games. After the Indians had shocked Denmark's world number 8 Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen in round 2, the Indonesian pair shattered their chances of winning their first world championship title when they defeated them in the quarterfinals.

The pair stated that making the cut will be their main aim as the qualification process for the Paris Olympics begins on May 1. "We have to maintain this level. It is the pre-Olympic year, so the focus will be on qualification. It is a tough task but still, we have to give it a try, we believe we can achieve that. From May, we will be pushing ourselves to play more tournaments," Dhruv said.

When the final qualifying list for the Games is revealed on April 30, 2024, the Indian duo, who are presently placed 21st, must be inside the top 8.

"Our target is to win Thailand Open in February. We want to do well in this tournament before the European circuit starts in March," Arjun said. "I think performance in the early part of the year will put us in a position how we can go about in the Olympic year. It is there in our mind how to get our game up and come into the top 16 and top 8 and get that qualification spot."

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