World Badminton Championships 2017: Kidambi Srikanth, PV Sindhu, Carolina Marin start as favourites
Since the 2011 World Championships, India have always managed to win a medal at the global event and with the likes of Srikanth, Sindhu, Saina and Jayaram in the squad, India can look forward to an improved medal tally.
World badminton's flagship event begins on Monday in Glasgow, Scotland.
The World Championships, probably the second most important badminton event after the Olympics, is also one that offers the second-highest ranking points.
In Glasgow, India are competing with the largest contingent ever sent from the country. With a heady mix of experience, talent and big-match performers, the 21-member squad will look to return with a big haul.
Since the 2011 World Championships, India have always managed to win a medal at the global event and with the likes of Kidambi Srikanth, PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal and Ajay Jayaram in the squad, India can harbour big hopes.
While India have had a golden 2017 with victories in Superseries and Grand Prix Gold events, it is up to the big guns and the enthusiastic new athletes to prove their worth and make the nation proud.
Here's a look at what's in store for the Indian shuttlers and some other big names at the World Badminton Championships 2017:
With 12 Indians in the top 100, the men's singles division has seen a major upswing in the past couple of years. Meanwhile, the sport has seen a total domination by the Chinese shuttlers over the years and five-time world champion Lin Dan would look to make it six this year. The last medal won by an Indian man at the World Championships was the bronze medal clinched by Prakash Padukone in 1983.
Kidambi Srikanth: The Indonesia Open Superseries Premier and Australian Open Superseries champion will kick-start his campaign against Russia's Sergey Sirant. While he hasn't gone past the third round in previous attempts, his performance this year has been the story in the sport and he would like to extend his 10-match winning streak further into the Championships.
Ajay Jayaram: While he faces one of the toughest draws in the Championships, the 29-year-old will look for some consistency in a season that has been nothing but a roller-coaster of a ride. He will square off against world number 114 Luka Wraber and looks at a prospective third round meeting against China's Chen Long, against whom Jayaram hasn't yet won. The next big challenge would be in the quarter-final where he might face Malaysia's Chen Long who is looking to win his maiden world title.
B Sai Praneeth: For a player who tasted success at a Superseries for the first time in April 2017, qualification for the World Championships will come as a major shot-in-the-arm for Praneeth who is known for his giant-slaying abilities. The 15th seed will be up against Hong Kong veteran Wei Nan in the first round and a win against the wild card entrant will see him face Indonesia's Anthony Sinsuka Ginting in the second round with a probable third round meeting with the sixth-seeded Chou Tien Chen from Chinese Taipei.
Sameer Verma: Winner of the 2017 Syed Modi International Grand Prix Gold event had a torrid season thereafter. For Sameer, qualification for the World Championships was the last thing in his mind as he was just recuperating from a shoulder injury that kept him on the sidelines for the better part of the year. The exclusion of some Chinese Taipei players opened the door for Sameer who was handed a 'lucky' direct entry. Having made the cut, Sameer is focused on making the opportunity count. He will face veteran Spanish shuttler Pablo Abian in the first round and a win will pit him against England's Rajiv Ouseph in the next.
Viktor Axelsen : The 23-year-old Olympic bronze medallist believes the World Championships is basically an open category and it is up to the best player on a particular day to win the event. Axelsen, who has been having problems with a foot injury, is looking to gain full fitness and compete in the tournament with the sole aim of winning the world title and fulfilling his childhood dream. Axelsen who will face world number 55 Takuma Ueda from Japan in the first round considers the 'big three' (Lin Dan, Chen Long and Lee Chong Wei) and Srikanth as the players who can put paid to his dreams.
Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei: While the Chinese legend has got nothing to prove to anyone, having won everything there is in badminton, Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei would like to add one of the only titles missing in his career. Lin is chasing an unprecedented sixth world title and will face local shuttler Kieran Merrilees in the first round while Lee faces Frenchman Brice Leverdez. With the famed Lee-Lin rivalry seemingly on its last leg, it will be worthwhile to see the legends of the sport trying to battle it out against the young guns who are trying to get their share of glory at the World Championships.
For the first time at the World Championships, India have filled all the four qualification spots in the women's singles category. With six Indians in the top 100, it is time for the other woman shuttlers to take away some responsibility from the shoulders of Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu who have been holding the Indian flag high for the past few years. With Tai Tzu Ying's withdrawal from the tournament, India have a solid chance to win a medal in this category, but they will face major roadblocks like Sun Yu, Sung Ji Hyun, Carolina Marin and Nozomi Okuhara.
Saina Nehwal: The 2015 World Championships silver medallist is not the same player in 2017. Saina's career has been marred by injuries. One of the most celebrated badminton champions from India in international events, the London Olympics bronze medallist enters this year's tournament without being under the spotlight. The time off from handling expectations might do her a world of good when she faces Sabrina Jacquet in the second round after being handed a first round bye. A potential third round face off against South Korea's Sung Ji Hyun will be a clash that is worthy of the final.
PV Sindhu: In 2013, by winning the bronze medal, Sindhu became the first Indian woman to win an individual medal in the World Championships and repeated that feat the following year. The 22-year-old Rio Olympics silver medallist follows a similar route as Saina in the World Championships as she has got a first round bye and will face South Korea's Kim Hyo Min or Egypt's Hadia Hosny in the second round. With China's Sun Yu being a prospective quarter-final opponent, Sindhu has her work cut out and should bring her A-game to reach the business end of the tournament.
Rituparna Das: India's Senior National Champion comes into the tournament looking to gain much-needed exposure at the international level. Having won the Polish International in 2016 and with a best performance of a quarter-final appearance at the Syed Modi International in this year, Rituparna will look to create an impact at the grandest stage of badminton. The Indian number two will face world number 54 Airi Mikkela and a win in the first round will see Rituparna face local favourite Kirsty Gilmour.
Tanvi Lad: The 24-year-old player returns to the international stage after a long injury lay-off that has put her out of much-needed match practice ahead of the World Championships. While she faces England's Chloe Birch in the first round, a second round match against the second seeded Sung Ji Hyun might prove to be her undoing or her moment under the sun depending on the outcome of that tie.
Carolina Marin: The Olympic gold medallist from Spain who was the first Spaniard to be world number one is the defending world champion and will be focusing on defending her title for the second time to make it a hat-trick of titles. In 2017, Marin was in three finals of major events and in this World Championships she would prefer ending with the yellow metal. Marin's campaign begins with a bye in the first round and a prospective third round showdown with Japan's Sayaka Sato.
India go into the World Championships with a total of nine teams across all three categories of doubles. With three teams each in men's doubles, women's doubles and mixed doubles, this indeed might be the year in which the Indian contingent return with more than one medal. Here are a few teams from India that are medal prospects at this year's event:
Manu Attri/Sumeeth Reddy: The only team to have represented India at the Olympics, the experienced pair of Attri-Reddy might just open the tally of India's medal in men's doubles. Though their post-Olympic season was plagued with injuries, they have since recuperated and competed comfortably in the highest level. After making a few changes in their techniques and focusing more on their core strengths, the duo is confident of returning from Glasgow with a medal. Their ambition faces its first challenge when they take on the Korean pair of Chung Eui Seok and Kim Duk Young.
Chirag Shetty/Satwiksairaj Rankireddy: The pair who were outside the top 200 last year are now sitting pretty on 35. The 17-year-old Rankireddy is ready to punch above his weight along with the 20-year-old Shetty at the World Championships. Attributing their success to the focused training regimen chalked out by India's mixed doubles coach Tan Kim Her, the duo are ready and raring to go. The young pair start off their campaign with a match against Hiroyuki Endo and Yuta Watanabe of Japan in the first round.
Ashwini Ponnappa/Sikki Reddy: It was Ponnappa along with erstwhile partner Jwala Gutta who ended the 28-year title drought at the World Championships with a bronze in the 2011 edition. A less-experienced partner then, Ponnappa is now the senior-most doubles player of India and has paired with the 24-year-old Sikki Reddy. She believes every tournament is a fresh start and is looking to take it one match at a time. They first face the Indonesian-Malaysian pair of Ririn Amelia and Anna Cheong. However, the second round will see them face the prolific Danish pair of Christina Pedersen and Kamilla Juhl.
With six more Indian doubles team in contention with varying levels of experience and a considerable number of first-timers, the mega event will be a place to showcase their wares and attract the spotlight back on to the doubles division.
The Indonesian doubles player had won the 2008 Olympic gold medal, 2006 World Cup and 2007 World Championships titles with Hendra Setiawan.
Tokyo Olympics 2020: There is definitely going to be more pressure on PV Sindhu than last time, says Jwala Gutta
Jwala also said the fact that players have not been able to play a lot of tournaments this time due to COVID-19 is also a concern.