Top Indian badminton stars Saina Nehwal and Kidambi Srikanth will be at the forefront as a strong Indian badminton contingent look to create a flutter at the World Championships. It is for the first time that India will have two players in the top 5 — Saina (World No 2 in women’s singles) and Srikanth (World No 3 in men’s singles) — as they lead the biggest Indian contingent at the Championship. It was young P V Sindhu, who clinched the bronze medal twice in 2013 and 2014 editions after women’s doubles pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa ended India’s 28-year-old medal drought at the World Championships in 2011. They will also be in action at the prestigious tournament, which will be held at the Gelora Bung Karno stadium. A medal at the world meet has so far eluded Olympic bronze medallist Saina, who has not progressed beyond the quarter-finals five times, while for Srikanth it is just his second World Championship.
Saina has got a bye in the first round and will start her campaign in the second round, taking on the winner of the match between Hong Kong’s Cheung Ngan Yi and Kati Tolmoff of Estonia. Second seed Saina, who won the Syed Modi GPG and India Super Series this season, is likely to take on 14th seed Sayaka Takahashi of Japan in the prequarter-finals. If she can cross the hurdle, it is likely to be a battle against formidable sixth seed Wang Yihan of China.
“The draw is really tough with Sayaka Takahashi and Wang Yihan both in my half. They are very strong players, so let’s see how it will be for me in this tournament. I hope I do well this time,” the 25-year-old said. In the men’s singles, third seed Srikanth, who won two titles this season at Swiss Open and India Super Series, will face Michael Fariman of Australia in the first round. Commonwealth Games champion Parupalli Kashyap, seeded 10th, is also brimming with confidence and will square up against Erik Meijs of The Netherlands.
“My training was good. Gopi sir was happy with the way I was playing, so that’s a good thing. I believe that I am playing my best badminton. It’s all about implementing it on court in the match now. Let’s see how I play,” Kashyap, who reached the quarter-finals of the World Championships in China in 2013, said. Indonesian Masters Grand Prix Gold winner H S Prannoy, seeded 11th, who was out of action because of a foot injury, will make a comeback at the event with a match against Alex Yuwan Tjong of Brazil. Sindhu, who had a difficult season marred by injury and poor form, got a bye in the opening round and will take on the winner of the match between Denmark’s Line Kjaersfeldt and Irish Chloe Magee in the second round. A win will put her against the former world No. 1 Li Xuerui of China.
Seeded 13th, Jwala and Ashwini, who won Canada Open in June, also got a bye in the first round. The Glasgow Games silver medallists will meet the winner of opening round match between Canadian pair of Alex Bruce and Phyllis Chan and Chinese Taipei’s Hsieh Pei Chen and Wu Ti Jung in women’s doubles. Indian men’s doubles pair of Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy, who reached the finals of US Open Grand Prix Gold last month, will meet Chinese combo of Cai Yun and Lu Kai, while Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Akshay Dewalkar will face Russian duo of Nikita Khakimov and Vasily Kuznetsov in the opening round. In other women’s doubles matches, Pradnya Gadre and N Sikki Reddy will lock horns with German pair of Isabel Herttrich and Birgit Michels, while young combination of Dhanya Nair and Mohita Sahdev will take on French combo of Delphine Lansac and Emilie Lefel.
In mixed doubles, Arun Vishnu and Aparna Balan will clash with Evgenij Dremin and Evgenia Dimova of Russia, while Kona Tarun and N Sikki Reddy will fight it out against Liao Min Chun and Chen Hsiao Huan of Chinese Taipei.
The chief national coach Pullela Gopichand, too, is upbeat about India’s chances this time. “We stand a good chance to win medals at multiple events this time but having said that it is the World Championship, we have to deliver to win and it is important to perform on that particular day and ranking doesn’t matter. But we can say that we have a few players who can get into the medal slot,” Gopichand said.