Thomas and Uber Cup Finals: Saina Nehwal, Satwik-Chirag in spotlight

London Olympics bronze medallist Saina, who missed the cut for Tokyo, will have to do the heavy lifting, while youngsters Malvika Bansod, Aditi Bhatt and Tasnim Mir will also look to put up a good show.

Saina Nehwal

London Olympics bronze medallist Saina, who missed the cut for Tokyo, will lead the contingent.   -  AP

India will look up to the star players, including Saina Nehwal and men's doubles pair of Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, to quickly recover from the Sudirman Cup drubbing and produce a better show at the Thomas and Uber Cup Finals beginning here on Saturday.

With their stars missing and senior players out of form, India cut a sorry figure at the Sudirman Cup mixed team championships in Vantaa, Finaland as they lost to China and Thailand to be knocked out of the tournament last week.

However, with Saina and Chirag and Satwik back in the team, India will look to forget the Sudirman Cup disappointment and produce a strong performance in the men's and women's team events, where 16 top teams from five continents battle for a week.

In the Thomas Cup, the Indian team has been placed in Group C alongside China, Netherlands and Tahiti, while the women's team has been drawn alongside Thailand, Spain and Scotland in Group B of Uber Cup.

While the men's team will open against Netherlands, women's side will face Spain in their tournament opener.

The 10-member men's team comprises four singles players and three doubles pairs.

READ| Chirag Shetty: We are definitely in for a medal at Thomas Cup Finals

Alongside B Sai Praneeth and former world No. 1 Kidambi Srikanth, Sameer Verma and Kiran George are also in the team, while the doubles have world No. 10 pair Chirag and Satwik, Dhruv kapila and MR Arjun and Krishna Prasad and Vishnu Vardhan.

Chirag, who had missed the Sudirman Cup due to an abdominal muscle pull, believes India has a chance of winning a medal.

"Looking at the draw, we should reach the quarterfinal first and then step up our game to go for medal. I feel India has a chance," he said.

The Indian men's team has not reached the knockout stage in the last 11 years but the side will fancy their chances this time.

While Chirag and Satwik are expected to carry the team on their young shoulders, the lack of form of senior members such as Srikanth and Praneeth is a case of worry.

The duo would look to get some confidence back when they take on Netherlands first-up ahead of their next match against the mighty China, which will be followed by a clash against lower-ranked Tahiti.

The women's team has won bronze twice in the tournament in the 2014 and 2016 editions but getting a medal will be tougher this time, especially without the services of double Olympic medallist PV Sindhu, who had excused herself following a hectic Tokyo Games campaign.

London Olympics bronze medallist Saina, who missed the cut for Tokyo, will have to do the heavy lifting, while youngsters Malvika Bansod, Aditi Bhatt and Tasnim Mir will also look to put up a good show.

In the doubles, Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy are the senior players and the onus will be on them to deliver the goods and guide the young pairs of Tanisha Crasto and Rutuparna Panda, who claimed the top spot in the trials, and Gayatri Gopichand and Treesa Jolly.

The women's team will fancy its chances against Spain, who would be without the services of 2016 Olympic gold medallist Carolina Marin, and Scotland, who has one formidable player in Kristy Gilmour, to enter the knockout stage.

The biennial event was rescheduled twice due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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