The in-form duo of H. S. Prannoy and Lakshya Sen will be at the forefront of India’s medal hunt at the BWF World Championships beginning here on Monday.
All eyes will also be on Satwiksaraj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, the country’s best doubles pair at world number 2, as they look to better the colour of the bronze that they claimed in the last edition.
India has won 13 medals, including one gold, four silvers and 8 bronze medals since 1977 when the tournament first started before turning into a biennial event from 1983 to 2005. It has been an annual event, with the exception of the Olympic year, ever since.
While the legendary Prakash Padukone was the first Indian to win a medal -- a bronze -- at the World Championships in 1983, the country’s shuttlers, led by PV Sindhu, have managed to win at least one medal since 2011.
Sindhu, the 2019 champion, is the most successful Indian with five medals but she has not been able to reach the podium since the Basel edition and has looked a pale shadow of her former self this season.
Kidambi Srikanth and Lakshya Sen, however, swelled India’s medal tally with silver and bronze in the 2021 edition, while Satwik and Chirag secured a bronze in 2022.
One player who has been lurking around the podium in the last editions is Prannoy, who finished at the quarterfinal stage in both 2021 and 2022 and would favourite this time, given his consistent run in the last 12 months.
With a Malaysia Masters win and a final finish at the Australian Open, Prannoy is looking in good shape to tick another box when he begins his campaign against Finland’s Kalle Koljonen, ranked 56th in the world.
The ninth-seeded Indian is likely to face the tricky Chico Aura Dwi Wardoyo of Indonesia next.
Sen too will look to hang around for the weekend as he opens against world No. 110 Georges Julien Paul of Mauritius and is expected to meet Korea’s Jeon Hyeok Jin next. A favourable result is likely to pit him against third seed Kunlavut Vitidsarn in round 3.
Srikanth has been erratic this season with his game imploding at crucial junctures and he would look to turn it around quickly in the pre-Olympic season with Paris qualification on the line.
The 30-year-old from Guntur will square off against a tougher opponent in Japan’s world number 15 Kenta Nishimoto. A 6-3 head-to-head record over the Japanese player, however, will give the Indian enough confidence as he begins his campaign here.
Indonesia’s world number 2 Anthony Ginting’s withdrawal has opened up the draw for Srikanth and the world number 20 Indian is expected to reach the quarterfinals at least if he manages to play to his potential.
Sindhu, silver medallist in 2017 and 2018 and bronze medal winner in 2013 and 2014, has been handed a bye and will play the winner of the match between Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara and Vietnam’s Thuy Linh Nguyen.
However, the shoulders that will carry the load of expectations most are of Satwik and Chirag, given their sensational show with a title-winning run at the Indonesia Open, Asia Championships, Swiss Open and Korea Open in 2023.
The second seeds, who have received a bye in the first round, are expected to go deep in the draw if one goes by their dominating run this season.
Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand, the two-time semifinalists at the All-England championships, also have got a bye.
Among other Indians, Ashwini Bhat K/Shikha Gautam, Rohan Kapoor/N Sikki Reddy and Venkat Prasad/Juhi Dewangan are also in the fray.
It is the fifth time Copenhagen will stage the championships, the most among all hosts. The Danish capital previously hosted the event in 1983, 1991, 1999 and 2014.
The Royal Arena, which opened in February 2017, is a big arena and players are likely to get into a physical battle in slow conditions.
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