After a successful campaign at the recently concluded Commonwealth Games, Indian badminton players, including PV Sindhu and Lakshya Sen, will be keen to continue their stellar run at the BWF World Championships 2022 which starts in Tokyo from August 22.
World No 7 Sindhu, who won her maiden singles gold at CWG 2022 in Birmingham, will be eyeing her second world title, having won the event in 2019.
However, it will be a challenging task for the two-time Olympic medallist, who may run into Wang Zhi Yi of China, the reigning Asian champion, and An Se Young of Korea, ranked No. 3 in the world badminton rankings, even before the semi-finals.
Sindhu got a bye in the first round and will potentially face Wang Zhi Yi in round three. An Se Young remains a possible opponent for the quarterfinals if the seedings play out.
Meanwhile, former World No 1 Saina Nehwal will return to the court after missing the CWG. The London Olympics bronze medallist, currently ranked 28th, will meet Jong Kong’s Cheung Ngan Yi in her opener and may come across world No 6 Nozomi Okuhara of Japan as early as in the second round.
Malvika Bansod is the third Indian in the women’s singles draw and starts her campaign against Danish world No. 21 Line Christophersen.
Among the men, India’s Kidambi Srikanth (ranked 13th), Lakshya Sen (10th) and HS Prannoy (18th) are in the same half of the draw, and only one of them can make the semi-finals.
The focus will be on Lakshya, who won the men’s singles gold in Birmingham this week. He also got a first-round bye for the Tokyo world championships.
Srikanth and Lakshya won the silver and bronze medals, respectively, at the last edition of the world championships in Spain. World No 5 Lee Zii Jia of Malaysia and World No 2 Kento Momota of Japan will be the major threats for the Indian men.
B Sai Praneeth is also part of the touring party but has a tough first assignment against Chinese Taipei’s Chou Tien Chen, the current world No 4 in his way, an olympics.com report said.
Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, gold medallists from Birmingham 2022, will lead the Indian charge in men’s doubles. Indian pairs Manu Attri/B Sumeeth Reddy, Krishna Prasad Garaga/ Vishnuvardhan Goud Panjala and MR Arjun/Dhruv Kapila are also in the fray.
On the other hand, Treesa Jolly/Gayatri Gopichand and Ashwini Ponnappa/ N Sikki Reddy will be India’s best hopes in the women’s doubles, where Pooja Dandu/ Sanjana Santosh and Ashwini Bhat K/ Shikha Gautam will also be looking to impress.
The mixed doubles section will see two Indian pairs, Ishaan Bhatnagar/Tanisha Crasto and Venkat Gaurav Prasad/ Juhi Dewangan, in action. Overall, a total of 27 shuttlers will be part of the Indian contingent in Japan.
Indian shuttlers have ensured 12 podium finishes at the world badminton championships but Sindhu’s gold medal in women’s singles back in 2019 remains the only gold in the lot.
(Inputs from IANS)