With the largest contingent ever, the Indian badminton team will be looking for its biggest medal haul at the 2015 BWF World Championships held at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta, starting Monday. With World No. 2 Saina Nehwal and two-time bronze medal winner PV Sindhu spearheading the team in women’s singles and three top-15 players in men’s singles (third-ranked Kidambi Srikanth, 10th ranked Parupalli Kashyap and 12th ranked HS Prannoy), India is all set to make some noise at the most prestigious badminton tournament of the year.
India has 4 medals so far
The Indian badminton team has four medals from this event so far. Indian legend Prakash Padukone was the first one to bring home a bronze medal in 1983. Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa ended the 28-year drought when they grabbed the women’s doubles bronze in 2011. Then PV Sindhu added the women’s singles bronze in 2013 and 2014.
The top Indian badminton contenders at WBC (singles)
Saina Nehwal, who climbed to the pinnacle of the world rankings this year, will look to buck the trend of having lost in the quarter-finals five times. The Indian, who has been training at Bangalore with her coach Vimal Kumar, has put in the hard yards and is hoping that all the perseverance will pay off.
However, the Chinese will be out in full force to get her. The second-ranked Nehwal lost her last two tournaments to her old Chinese nemesis, Shixian Wang and will be hoping to get the better of Wang Yihan who is her potential opponent in the quarter-finals.
“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,” Saina said.
The 25-year-old also has one more problem to tackle. A shoulder pain flared up just days before the tournament and the India No. 1 is hoping that it would not be a hindrance in her quest for glory.
PV Sindhu has made Indian badminton proud the last two years. The lanky shuttler who turned 20 recently, showed her mettle at this elite event and made history by winning two consecutive bronze medals. However, Sindhu is a bit cautious this time after having lost a chunk of the season due to stress fracture.
Her performances since then had been expectedly inconsistent and she had suffered early round defeats. The youngster, who has fallen to 13th in the world rankings, has the tough proposition of facing the Olympic champion Li Xuerui in the pre-quarter-finals. Though the Indian holds a 1-2 head-to-head record against the Chinese ace, she lost her most recent encounter at the Badminton Asia Championships in three games.
“I know I am likely to play Li Xuerui. It is always tough playing against her. But I am positive about my chances. I am focussing on my sessions, working out to strengthen myself,” said Sindhu.
In men’s singles, third-ranked Kidambi Srikanth began the year on a high with two titles at the Swiss Open and the India Open. But since then, his performance graph, unfortunately, took a nosedive. However, Srikanth is thankful that he got this very important training block where he could focus on rectifying his recurrent mistakes.
“There is no specific reason for the early round losses. I just couldn’t get the crucial points I wanted. I was doing some simple mistakes at crucial moments which I want to avoid,” said Srikanth.
The 22-year-old however, needs to be wary of the former World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei in the quarter-finals. The Malaysian has an intimidating 4-0 record over the India No. 1.
10th ranked Parupalli Kashyap, who reached the quarter-finals of the World Championships in 2013, is admittedly playing ‘the best badminton of his life’. The 28-year-old, who won the Syed Modi Grand Prix Gold this season and toppled Chen Long at the Indonesia Open Superseries, has sounded confident ahead of the Jakarta mega event.
“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,” said Kashyap.
Kento Momota, ranked fourth, could pose a tough challenge for the Commonwealth Games champion in the pre-quarters. Kashyap is 0-2 against the Japanese which includes a loss in Indonesia this season.
The very talented HS Prannoy, who was recovering from a toe injury, will be making a comeback in this tournament. The Indonesian Masters Grand Prix Gold champion begins against World No. 109 Alex Yuwan Tjong of Brazil.
India is looking to prosper in doubles this time. The Indian badminton team is hoping for medals in this category after the doubles shuttlers captured a few titles recently.
Leading the pack will be the pair of Jwala Gutta/Ashwini Ponnappa, who are ranked 12th now. They clinched a bronze medal in the 2011 edition and look pretty realistic about their chances after conquering the Canada Open.
They are also the first Indian doubles team to be seeded at the Championships. Having got a bye, the 13th seeds will open against the winner of the first round match between Alex Bruce/Phyllis Chan and Hsieh Pei Chen/Wu Ti Jung.
Accompanying Jwala and Ashwini, are the pairs of N Sikki Reddy/Pradnya Gadre and Dhanya Nair/Mohita Sahdev. Reddy-Gadre begin against Isabel Herttrich/Birgit Michels of Germany while Nair-Sahdev kick off their campaign against Delphine Lansac/Emilie Lefel of France.
In men’s doubles, Lagos International winners Manu Attri and Sumeeth Reddy have broken into the top 20 and are now placed at 17th. They face off against the Chinese pair of Cai Yun/Lu Kai in the first round while the other Indian combination – Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Akshay Dewalkar – will start their quest against Nikita Khakimov/Vasily Kuznetsov of Russia.
In mixed doubles, Tarun Kona and Sikki Reddy will square off against Chinese Taipei’s Liao Min Chun/Chen Hsiao Huan. The other Indian mixed doubles team – Arun Vishnu and Aparna Balan – will lock horns with Russia’s Evgenij Dremin/Evgenia Dimova.
Here’s wishing all the best to the Indian badminton team for the 2015 World Championships.