Sidhu, Saina, Kidambi would be put to hard test in Nanjing

Tough battles await Indians at BWF World Badminton Championships

Nanjing (China).

Women’s singles stars P.V. Sindhu and Saina Nehwal and men’s singles player Kidambi Srikanth will carry India’s hopes when they compete at the BWF World Badminton Championships, starting here from Monday.

India’s shuttlers will have to endure tough battles as the country hopes to end its drought of boasting a world title holder. Saina and Sindhu have recently come close to end the drought, winning the silver medals in 2015 and 2017.

Saina also has a bronze medal in 2015, while Sindhu pocketed bronze medals in 2013 and 2014.

Sindhu, 23, has had a mixed year. She wasn’t able to build on her results from 2017 which gave her three titles on BWF’s professional tour. She fell in three finals — at the India Open, the Commonwealth Games and the Thailand Open.

Still, she has been combative all season and, with a bit of luck, could well cross the final barrier in Nanjing.

The Indian third seed will open her campaign against Fitriani Fitriani or Linda Zetchiri. If the Indian wins the match, South Korean ninth Sung ji Hyun will be a stiff challenge for Sindhu while reigning world champion Nozomi Okuhara is a possible opponent in the quarter-finals for the Hyderabadi.

Sindhu’s senior, Saina, 28, will play Turkish Aliye Demirbag in her first round. After this round, the Indian 10th seed is expected to fight big names like Ratchanok Inthanon of Thailand and Olympic champion Carolina Marin in the next two rounds.

In the men’s singles category, fifth seeded Kidambi Srikanth, due to the withdrawal of Malaysian veteran Lee Chong Wei, should fancy a position in the semi-finals.

Srikanth will open against Ireland’s Nhat Nguyen and is likely to meet Indonesia’s Jonatan Christie, 13th seed, in the third round.

H.S. Prannoy, the 11th seed, has been handed an easy opening round clash against Australia’s Abhinav Manota. He may face Hong Kong’s Wong Wing Ki Vincent in the second round. Prannoy should be ready face either rising Chinese star Shi Yuqi or the legendary Lin Dan in the quarter-finals.

Two-time World champion Chen Long will seek to take advantage of home conditions when he faces Chinese Taipei’s Hsu Jen Hao in the afternoon session.

Sameer Verma will open his campaign against Lucas Corvee. If he wins, he might face five-time world champion Lin Dan in the second round.

B Sai Praneeth will benefit from the withdrawal of South Korean Son Wan Ho who were supposed to meet in the opening round. Praneeth has advanced to the second round where he will face Spaniard Luís Enrique Peñalver.

In the men’s doubles, the senior pair of Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy will open against Bulgarian combo of Daniel Nikolov and Ivan Rusev, while fast-rising Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty face Olympic bronze medallists Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge of England.

The women’s doubles pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and N. Sikki Reddy will meet Chinese Taipei’s Chiang Kai Hsin and Hung Shih Han in their first round. If Ashwini-Sikki cross the first hurdle, they will have to deal with Japanese second seeds Y. Fukushima and S. Hirota in the second round.

Apart from Ashwini-Sikki, India also has three more competitors in this category. Less-profiled pairs of Sanyogita Ghorpade and Prajakta Sawant, Kohoo Garg and N.B. Hazarika and M. Jakkampudi and Poorvisha S. Ram will aim to impress in the year’s biggest badminton meet.

The mixed doubles pair of Ashwini and Satwik will clash with the Danish pair of N. Nøhr and S. Thygesen, while Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Sikki will meet the Czech combine of Jakub Bitman and Alzbeta Basova.

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