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(Reuters) - Focus on badminton at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics:
THE ABSOLUTE BASICS
* At the Olympics, players compete in best-of-three matches.
* To serve, players must hit the shuttlecock below waist height and diagonally towards their opponent's box.
* A point is scored on each serve to whichever side wins the rally, after which the winning side gets the next serve.
* The first side to reach 21 points wins the game.
HOW MANY MEDALS? There are five golds medals available: men's and women's singles and doubles, and mixed doubles
WHAT HAPPENED IN RIO?
China have been the dominant force at the Olympics since Sydney but the signs at the 2016 Games were that their strength may be fading. After winning all five golds up for grabs in London, China came away with just two in Rio five years ago, with Japan and Spain topping the podium for the first time in the sport. China's tally of two golds and one bronze medal was their lowest at an Olympics.
WHAT CAN WE EXPECT IN TOKYO?
Double defending world champion Kento Momota is the player to beat for men's gold while the women's singles event has been thrown wide open with the absence of 2016 champion Carolina Marin. The Spaniard has been forced to pull out due to injury, clearing a path for the likes of China's Chen Yu Fei and Taiwan's Tai Tzu Ying. Rio silver medalist and former world champion PV Sindhu is also a favourite for the title despite ranking No.7 and has beaten Tai several times at previous tournaments.
Fresh faces could fill the medal spots this year with a host of top talent missing, including Marin, India's Saina Nehwal, China's Lin Dan and Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei. London bronze medallist Nehwal was unable to qualify because the COVID-19 pandemic prevented her from attending several tournaments, while Lin and Lee have retired after years of dominating the men's singles. Momota and Denmark's Axelsen and Antonsen are favorites to take up their mantle.
WHEN IS IT HAPPENING? July 24 to Aug. 2
WHERE IS IT HAPPENING? Musashino Forest Sport Plaza, a venue familiar to players who have competed in the last two Japan Opens.
HOW DID WE GET HERE? Badminton - derived from the Indian game "poona", which was played by British army officers stationed in India in the 1860s - was named after a country estate in Gloucestershire, England. It can be traced back to Ancient Greece, China, and India, and has been a medal sport since 1992.
WELL FANCY THAT While testing out new racket technology in 2013, Malaysia’s Tan Boon Hoeng set a new world record with a 493kph smash. The fastest recorded hit during competition belongs to Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei, who clocked a 417kph shot during the Japan Open final in September 2017.
(Reporting by Richa Naidu; Editing by Peter Rutherford)