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, starting here on Monday.
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 quarterfinals 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 prequarterfinals. 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 quarterfinals 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.