Srikanth, Sindhu lead India's charge at World Badminton Championship
In-form Kidambi Srikanth and two- time bronze medallist P V Sindhu will headline a 21-member Indian contingent as they gun for the elusive gold medal at the World Badminton Championships starting here tomorrow.
After grabbing successive titles at Indonesia and Australia, Srikanth will look to continue his rampaging run and clinch a maiden World Championship medal when he spearheads India’s challenge this week.
While Srikanth turns up in Scotland after three successive final finishes, Sindhu enters the event after a couple of quarterfinal finishes in the previous Super Series events of this season.
First Indian woman to win a silver at 2015 World Championship, Saina Nehwal will also be in the reckoning and will look to brush aside any concern whatsoever regarding her fitness and put the best foot forward.
Interestingly, Saina and Sindhu have got byes in the opening round.
Sindhu will open her campaign against either Korea’s Kim Hyo Min or Egypt’s Hadia Hosny in the second round and is likely to meet China’s Sun Yu for a place at the quarterfinals.
Saina, on the other hand, will take on the winner of the match between Switzerland’s Sabrina Jaquet and Ukraine’s Natalya Voytsekh and is expected to clash with Korean second seed Sung Ji Hyun for a place in the pre-quarterfinals.
In the run up to the event, however, it is the Indian men’s shuttlers who have dominated the season, winning six titles. It included the maiden Super Series title win by 15th seed B Sai Praneeth at Singapore and Sameer Verma’s victory at Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold in Lucknow.
Praneeth, who also won the Thailand Grand Prix Gold, will face Hong Kong’s Wei Nan in the first round, while Ajay Jayaram, who has been a little off-colour of late, will take on
Austrian Luka Wraber in the opening round.
Sameer Verma, playing his maiden World Championship after being given a direct entry in the main draw, will square off against Spain’s Pablo Abian.
“I am really playing well and I am confident. But everyone comes with their full fitness for such a big event. So I am not thinking about reaching final but focusing on the first round,” said Srikanth, who will open his campaign against Russia’s Sergey Sirant.
Srikanth and co will have to deal will big guns such as two-time winner and Olympic champion Chen Long, who is only seeded fifth behind World No.1 Son Wan Ho, veteran Lee Chong Wei, Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen, China’s Shi Yuqi and Lin Dan, the five time world champion.
In the women’s singles, national champion Rituparna Das will meet Finnish shuttler Airi Mikkela in the opening round, while Tanvi Lad will fight it out against England’s Chloe Birch.
With World No. 1, Tai Tzu-ying missing in action, two- time champion Carolina Marin, seeded third, will be posing the biggest threat for Saina and Sindhu. Indians also have to be wary of the likes of world No. 2 and 3, Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi and South Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun.
Among other Indians in fray, Rio Olympians Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy, young duo of Chirag Sen and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Arjun MR and Ramchandran Shlok will compete in men’s doubles.
Sumeeth and Ashwini Ponnappa will pair up in mixed doubles, which will also see 15th seeds Pranaav Jerry Chopra and N Sikki Reddy and Satwik combining with Maneesha K.
In women’s doubles, Ashwini and Sikki, Meghana Jakkampudi and Poorvisha S Ram, and Sanjana Santosh and Arathi Sara Sunil too will try to make a mark.
Chief national coach Pullela Gopichand would hope his wards bring back more than a medal from the prestigious event.
“This is probably the strongest squad. The men have been doing well in recent times and the four Indian players in the fray are good and capable of beating the best. Nobody is a clear favourite these days and we can expect a strong performance from our players,” he said.