Badminton World Championships begin today: what are India's chances?
As Glasgow, Scotland is all decked up for the 22nd edition of BWF World Championships that gets underway on Monday, the badminton universe awaits top notch performance from the ace shuttlers around the world.
With seven individual titles under the belt already this year, India will be looking for a gold medal at the premier event. India has sent a 33-member National team for the week-long biennial world meet. This is the largest contingent of India in the history of the tournament.
Among the 21 players, there are 10 male shuttlers and 11 women.
The reigning champions Chen Long and Carolina Marin once again are set to light up the tournament with their scintillating display of badminton. Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia and Lin Dan of China also are likely to escalate the competition level.
Both the players are going out with all their guns blazing as the Glasgow meet is likely to be their last appearance at the world meet. While Chong Wei will be eyeing his maiden gold medal, he starts his campaign against France’s Brice Leverdez and is likely to face 10th seed Tian Houwei of China as early as in the second round.
The clash of the titans might happen in the quarterfinal as Chong Wei is expected to face defending champion Chen as both the shuttlers are drawn in the same quarter.
On the other hand, five-time World Champion and seventh seed Lin faces local Kieran Merrilees in the opening round. He is likely to face 16th seed Rajiv Ouseph or India’s Sameer Verma before the quarter-final rounds.
With the 21-member contingent, Indians can surely bank on their favourite shuttle stars as Kidambi Srikanth, Sai Praneeth, P.V. Sindhu and Saina Nehwal are undoubtedly on the list for clinching the title.
Eighth seed Srikanth is going to be India’s biggest hope as the 24-year-old shuttler set the court on fire with his back to back Indonesia Superseries Premier and Australian Open titles. The eighth-seeded Indian shuttler stunned Chen in straight games in the final of Australian Open in June.
With a quarterfinal exit in Rio Olympics, he lived up to the epitome of making a strong comeback. Srikanth will commence his campaign against Sergey Sirant of Russia. He would be up against either the World No. 45 Lin Yu Hsien or World No. 63 Lucas Corvee in the second round. In the third round, Srikanth might face either Tommy Sugiarto or 14th seed Anders Antonsen. Provided he makes it to the final eight, Srikanth might have to face world number one Son Wan Ho in the quarter-final.
Sai Praneeth, another fierce shuttler in the circuit has been included in the third quarter. The Singapore super series winner is 15th seeded and is up against Wei Nan of Hong Kong while he has been slated to face Anthony Sinisuka Ginting in the second round. Sixth seed Chou Tien Chen and third seed Viktor Axelsen are likely to be his obstacle before the final rounds.
Veteran player Ajay Jayaram seeded 13th, kickstarts his campaign against Denmark’s Luka Wraber. He might face someone between World No. 51 Mark Caljouw and No. 70 Niluka Karunaratnein the second. Fifth seed Chen Long, whom Jayaram is yet to beat is likely to be his opponent in the third round. If Jayaram wins against him, another Chinese, Lee Chong Wei awaits him in the quarter-final.
While the only unseeded Indian men’s singles shuttler Sameer will face Spain’s Pablo Abian in the opening round, he will be facing England’s Rajiv Ouseph. If that isn’t it, next is Lin Dan.
Now the focus shifts on the women’s field. With the Taiwanese star Tai Tzu Ying pulling out of the tournament Carolina Marin and PV Sindhu headline Women’s singles field.
While the Japanese Akane Yamaguchi is the top seed, PV Sindhu has been seeded fourth, the highest seeded Indian in the fray. With two World Championship bronze feathers already in her hat, Sindhu who won the Rio Olympics silver medal is in the form of her life. Her agility in the circuit gives her the edge over others and assures a podium finish.
Sindhu might be up against South Korean Kim Hyo Min or Hadia Hosny of Egypt in the second round. If she gets through, she would be in for an uphill task in the quarter-finals against Chinese fifth seed Sun Yu.
The other female Indian shuttler, India’s original badminton star Saina Nehwal, who dominated the world badminton stage for quite some time, is under the radar of late due to her being out of form. Ever since winning silver at the same event two years ago, Saina has been struggling with form. Saina was kept at bay from returning to the court due to her knee injury. She clinched the Malaysia Masters in January post this period.
With a bye in the first round, Saina may be up against Ji Hyun Sung of Korea in the third round. If she gets past Sung, Saina may face He Bingjiao of China in the quarterfinals.
The two other women badminton players – Rituparna Das and Tanvi Lad have been around for some time despite any international level accolades. Ranked 46th and 93rd respectively both the girls have earned a direct entry into the tournament. Rituparna and Lad have been scheduled to face Finnish Airi Mikkela and England’s Chloe Birch in their first round matches respectively.
Among the doubles, the duo of Pranaav Jerry Chopra and N Sikki Reddy will be the one to watch out for. Long-time player Ashwini Ponnappa will be participating in both the Women’s Doubles and the Mixed Doubles category. Her partnership with Sikki Reddy has certainly proven to be worthy as the pair finished runners-up at the Syed Modi International Grand Prix Gold in January.
In the men’s doubles team, the duo of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty has proven to be lethal after they briefly unseated the No 1 pair of B.Sumeeth Reddy and Manu Attri. The two teams will definitely fight to amass laurels for India.
Indian badminton has seen quite an outburst of medals in the recent past, the most recent one being the achievement of 16-year old Lakshya Sen who, despite being young, won his second senior title last week. It seems to be the one sport where India has not suffered any sort of disappointment of late. Apart from the Olympics, the World Championships is among the biggest international stages. It is a great opportunity for the shuttlers of India to carry forward their positive form and cement their position as formidable opponents on the global badminton landscape.
The full squad:
Women’s singles —P. V. Sindhu (5). Saina Nehwal (16). Rituparna Das (46). Tanvi Lad (91).
Women’s doubles —Ashwini Ponnappa & Sikki Reddy (25). Sanjana Santosh & Arathi Sunil (38). J Meghna & Poorvashri Ram (41).
Men’s singles —K Srikanth (8). Ajay Jayaram (16). Sai Praneeth (19). Sameer Verma (28).
Men’s doubles —Manu Attri & Sumeeth Reddy (31). Satwik Sairaj & Chirag Shetty (37). Shlok Ramachandran & M. Arjun (41).
Mixed doubles —Pranav Chopra & Sikki Reddy (20). Sumeeth Reddy & Ashwini Ponappa (55). Satwik Sairaj & K. Maneesha (76).