India will be fielding its strongest ever squad at the World Badminton Championships in Guangzhou Aug 5-11 with an aim to bring home at least one medal.
Women’s doubles combination of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa had ended India’s 28-year-old medal drought at the world meet by winning the bronze in 2011. They will not be seen in action as a pair in China, all eyes will be on World No.3 Saina Nehwal to record her maiden podium finish in the championships.
“Saina is obviously our best bet at the World Championship. This will be the first time that India would have two representatives in each of the five categories and that is proof of how well our players are performing at the international circuit," said Badminton Association of India (BAI) president Akhilesh Das Gupta.
There are no qualification rounds at the championships. Only top 50 players in the world are eligible to participate.
“The members of the Indian squad are training hard and I have no doubt that all of them will make the country proud with their performance,” Das Gupta said.
Any player reaching the semifinals is assured of a bronze. India’s best medal hopes, Saina and Malaysian Grand Prix Gold winner P.V. Sindhu, would open their campaign with a bye.
London Olympics bronze medallist Saina should face her first real challenge in the quarterfinal where she is likely to meet either Japanese eighth seed Minatsu Mitani or 13th seed Bae Yeon Ju of Korea. Saina’s first brush with a Chinese would come only in the semifinals where Olympic gold medallist Li Xuerui is likely to be waiting for her.
“I don’t want to think too far ahead and will like to take things one at a time. I have been working hard for the last few weeks and I hope to be at my best in China,” said Saina, who reached the quarterfinals of the last three editions.
In the bottom half of the draw, Asian Junior Champion Sindhu will have to overcome defending champion Yihan Wang of China in the pre-quarterfinals if she has to entertain any hope of a medal.
Chief national coach Pullela GopiChand said: “It is very heartening to see pool of youngsters being part of the contingent and the way they are playing, am confident of a good show in Guangzhou. I am also expecting some good results in men’s singles and doubles players.”
Among the other stars, 13th seed Parupalli Kashyap would look to sail through the pre-quarterfinals where he is likely to meet sixth seed Yun Hu of Hong Kong. Mumbai’s Ajay Jayaram will have a tough opener against Wing Ki Wong of Hong Kong and if the Mumbai resident manages to overcome the World No.12, he could go a lot further in the draw.