India need to go full throttle to win medal at Sudirman Cup

Indian shuttlers have a tough task ahead as they aim for their first medal at the tourney.

P.V. Sindhu is all set to lead the Indian contingent into the Sudirman Cup mixed team championship beginning tomorrow.   -  Sandeep Saxena

Spearheaded by Olympic silver-medallist PV Sindhu, India is in for a tough challenge as it seeks to end an agonising wait for a medal at the Sudirman Cup mixed team championship beginning at Gold Coast, in Queensland tomorrow.

India, ranked ninth, has managed to reach the knockout stage of the tournament only once, during the 2011 edition, while in the last two editions it did not get past the group stage.

Led by Sindhu and world No.13 Ajay Jayaram, India will have its task cut out this time when it takes on Denmark and Indonesia in Group 1 D. India will open its campaign against two-time runners-up Denmark on Monday and will face former champion and six-time runners-up Indonesia on Wednesday.

For India, the onus will be on singles to win their respective matches, while it would be hoping one of its doubles pairs pull off at least one match.

London Olympics bronze-medallist Saina Nehwal pulled out days ahead of the tournament but her absence should not affect India’s chances as world No.4 Sindhu is more than capable of handling the responsibility. “I think we have a good chance, it’s a mixed team event so girls and boys both have to perform well. Saina isn’t playing, but that shouldn’t be any issue. I hope we can win,” said a confident Sindhu.

Denmark has world No.3 and world No.4 Viktor Axelsen and Jan O Jorgensen respectively in its ranks and it will be a challenge for Jayaram and Singapore Open finalist K Srikanth to get past the duo in the men’s singles. Jayaram has a 3-2 record against Axelsen, having beaten him at the Malaysia Open recently, while Srikanth has a 2-2 record against Jorgensen. Having lost to him at the Rio Olympics, Srikanth would look to take revenge.

“It is definitely a tough draw. India’s forte has always been singles but I think our doubles have done reasonably well of late. At least in mixed doubles, Sikki and Pranaav have done well recently. So if we could pull out a single and one doubles that would be great,” said Jayaram, who had entered the Korea Super Series final in 2015.

Doubles has been India’s weakest link with the Olympian men’s pair of Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy finding it difficult to get going in super series events. Sikki Reddy and Pranaav Jerry Chopra however, have done well, winning their maiden Grand Prix Gold title in January at the Syed Modi International to reach the world No.16 spot. The new pair of Sikki and Ashwini Ponnappa have also found success, with a final finish at Lucknow being the highlight of their partnership so far.

However, it will take a massive effort from the Indian shuttlers to succeed against Denmark, who has a pair in the top 5 in each of the men’s, women’s and mixed doubles category. Indonesia also has world No.7 Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir in mixed doubles and Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, the world No.1 pair, in men’s doubles.

India’s best women’s doubles pair of Della Destiara Haris and Rosyita Eka Putri Sari are placed at the 15th spot and India’s Sikki Reddy and Ashwini Ponnappa will fancy their chances against them.

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