After three highly successful events, the programme now moves to Guwahati with the Eastern Open Talent Hunt scheduled to be held from March 2 to March 18, 2024 in Deshbhakta Tarun Ram Phookan Indoor Stadium.
Marking the return of international badminton to the city after a long hiatus of 17 years, Guwahati gears up to host its first ever super 100 tournament, and rising star Unnati Hooda hopes to make the Guwahati Masters a memorable affair by adding another title to her trophy cabinet and have a shot at breaking in to the top-50 of the BWF rankings soon.
The Haryana lass had earlier set a modest target of breaking into the top-100 in the BWF World Ranking by the end of this year. But the 16-year-old has already surpassed that target with back-to-back titles in Abu Dhabi and Raipur and is hoping to get within touching distance of the top-50 spot with a strong showing at the Guwahati Masters Super 100 tournament that begins here with the qualifying rounds on Tuesday.
Currently ranked 79th in the world, Hooda will open her campaign against Stephanie Widjaja of Indonesia in the inaugural edition of the competition that has attracted some top international stars including Thailand’s Kantaphon Wangcharoen and Supanida Katethong among others.
“Our target this year was to only break into the top-100 world ranking. But I managed to finish second in the Infosys Open in Bengaluru and won titles in Abu Dhabi and Chhattisgarh and I was able to achieve that goal quickly. I have prepared well for this tournament and I am hoping that a good run here will inch me closer to the top-50 mark,” said Hooda, who also reached the second round of the Syed Modi Super 300 meet in Lucknow last week.
Speaking about the experience, Hooda said getting to play against a player of the calibre of former world champion Nozomi Okuhara was a fantastic experience for her and her aim was to find consistency in her play like these top stars.
“Some tournaments I play well but in some I don’t. I am continuing to find that balance between training and tournaments in consultation with my coaches to ensure that I become more consistent next year,” she said.
The city hosted the first India International Challenge back in 2007. The Super 100 event on the BWF Tour is one level above the Challenge event and will provide players like Hooda valuable ranking points if she does well here.