Copenhagen, Aug 24: India will be fielding one of their strongest teams in recent times at the World Badminton Championships, starting here Monday.
BUY-SELL | HELP WANTED | MATRIMONIAL
Of the 16-strong squad, Saina Nehwal, P.V. Sindhu and Parupalli Kashyap are the strongest bets for India’s medal hopes when they enter the court at the 9,200-seater Ballerup Super Arena.
The sport's most prestigious event returns to the Danish capital after 15 years for a record fourth time — Copenhagen previously hosted it in 1983, 1991 and 1999.
For India, Saina and Sindhu will once again lead the charge and expectations are high in women’s singles from the only seeded Indians.
Seventh seed Saina will look to break the quarter-final jinx this year. In the four times she has competed at the World Championships, she has faltered every time at the last eight stage.
Already in the second round with a first round bye, the Olympic bronze medallist will face real competition only in the third round where she will likely be up against Japanese 13th seed Sayaka Takahashi, whom the Indian had beaten in their only match yet at the 2013 Indonesia Open.
Thereon, the road will only get tougher as the World No.7 will likely face Chinese World No.1 Li Xuerui in the quarters.
Last edition's bronze medallist, 11th seeded Sindhu sits in the other half of the draw, having also already entered the second round after a bye.
After an easy second round, the competition for the World No.12 will get tough as she is expected to face in the third round South Korean sixth seed Yeon Ju Bae who had beaten the Indian both the times they met.
If Sindhu does manage to advance further, her next opponent should be Chinese second seed Shixian Wang in the last eight.
In men's singles, newly crowned Commonwealth Games champion Kashyap has got the most unfavourable draw he could have asked for. The World No.27 has drawn Germany's Dieter Domke in the opener.
Though, the Indian has a strong 5-1 record against the World No.43, Domke beat Kashyap the last time they played in the Thomas Cup in New Delhi in May.
If Kashyap beats the German, Malaysia's World No.1 Lee Chong Wei will most likely be waiting for him in the second round against whom the Indian has never taken a game, let alone winning a match in their previous four meetings.
Ajay Jayaram has been away from the circuit for the past seven months due to a shoulder injury. But the 26-year-old, who last played competitive badminton at the India Grand Prix Gold in January, will make a return here.
The former World No.21, who has dropped to No.89 due to his absence from the circuit, did not qualify for the World Championships but is lucky to have got in thanks to withdrawals. The Mumbaikar got even luckier when his opponent for the opener Japanese fourth seed Kenichi Tago pulled out.
Now, he will play either Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk or Kieran Merrilees in the second round. Jayaram had told IANS that he is aiming to get as many matches under his belt as possible to get back into match rhythm.
Rising star Kidambi Srikanth has an easy opener against Slovenian Iztok Utrosa but has a difficult outing next against Malaysian 16th seed Chong Wei Feng.
Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa are India's best doubles pair as they look to replicate their 2011 performance when they clinched the bronze. Prajakta Sawant and Arathi Sara Sunil will be the other Indian pair in women's doubles.
Ashwini will also pair up with mixed doubles partner Tarun Kona while reigning national champions Arun Vishnu and Aparna Balan will look to make a mark in the international arena.
Finally, in men’s doubles Pranaav Chopra-Akshay Dewalkar and Manu Attri-B. Sumeeth Reddy will be looking to cause ripples though they run into difficult opponents straightaway