BWF World C'ships 2023: Satwik-Chirag cynosure of all eyes, Prannoy and Sindhu may pull off surprises
At the World Championships, the cynosure of all eyes will be the world no. 2 doubles duo of Satwik and Chirag, who are one of the strongest contenders for the gold medal.
The BWF World Championships, the most prestigious event on the World Tour, will start on August 21 in Copenhagen, Denmark, and the winners of the five disciplines will be decided on August 27.
India has sent a 14-member squad for the prestigious event, spearheaded by HS Prannoy and Olympic medallist PV Sindhu. Prannoy will aim to win his maiden title alongside Lakshya Sen, while Sindhu will look to get her mojo back at the Worlds, her favourite hunting ground.
However, the cynosure of all eyes will be India's top men's doubles duo of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, who will be vying to improve upon the bronze medal they won in Tokyo last year.
Can Prannoy, Lakshya end India's wait for gold?
The closest an Indian shuttler came to winning a World Championships gold in men's singles is Kidambi Srikanth, who had to settle for silver after losing the final to Loh Kean Yew in 2021.
Can Prannoy and Lakshya, being the two in-form players, end the title drought in Denmark?
Prannoy, seeded ninth in the event, will be India's best bet for the men's singles gold along with Lakshya, the 11th seed.
World no. 9 Prannoy will look to continue his fiery form at the World Championships. The 31-year-old is fresh from a runner-up finish at the Australian Open, where he lost a grueling three-setter in the final against Weng Hong Yang. Prannoy also won his maiden World Tour title in 2023 at the Malaysia Masters.
Prannoy has an easy draw in the first two rounds as he faces unheralded Kalle Koljonen of Finland in the opening round and possibly Ade Resky Dwicahyo in the second. However, the Indian may face a test of his form and skills in the third round, where his possible opponent will be Loh Kean Yew. And even if he overcomes Loh, Prannoy will run into the biggest test of the championship by going up against top seed and home favourite Viktor Axelsen in the quarterfinal.
Lakshya, who got his mojo back after a prolonged lean patch by winning the Canada Open, is in the second half of the draw. As Lakshya has been drawn against world no. 111 Georges Julien Paul in the first round, he is unlikely to face any resistance before the pre-quarterfinal, where, in all probability, he will face off against World Championship silver medallist Kunlavut Vitidsarn. If Lakshya thumps world no. 3 Vitidsarn, he could run into Li Shi Feng, the All-England and US Open-winning Chinese shuttler, in the quarterfinal.
For Srikanth, who has recently fallen from grace, making several first and second-round exits, it will be a tough ask to break the barrier of Round of 64. He faces world no. 15 Kenta Nishimoto in the opening round. Even if he manages to prevent an aggressive Nishimoto, Srikanth will have another Japanese hurdle to overcome against world no. 18 Kanta Tsuyeyama in pre-quarters. But that world no. 2 Anthony Ginting pulled out of the Worlds can boost Srikanth's confidence.
Can Sindhu make a turnaround on the World Tour?
Sindhu is the lone Indian competing in women's singles. She is India's most successful shuttler at the World Championships with five medals. Sindhu won two bronze (2013 and 2014), and two silver medals (2017 and 2018) before attaining the gold medal in 2019 in Basel.
Out of the top 10 for the first time, Sindhu is heading to the World Championships in Copenhagen as the 16th and last seed. Her recent form has not been promising, with her making seven first-round exits on the World Tour, and is yet to win a title in 2023. Sindhu last won a World Tour title in Singapore Open in July 2022.
The former world champion got a bye in the first round and might face versatile Ratchanok Intanon in the round of 16. If Sindhu gets the better of the Thai shuttler, she will have a laborious task in hand as her quarterfinal opponent will be either world no. 1 An Se Young - who has been in blazing form - or Beiwen Zhang, the Australian Open champion. Sindhu lost to Zhang in the quarterfinals of the Australian Open in straight games. And her 0-6 record against An does not bode well for her either.
Satwik-Chirag on the brink of history
The world no. 2 duo won four titles this season, including the Badminton Asia Championships, and they are in contention to be the world no. 1. Satwik and Chirag have already registered so many firsts for India, including the men's doubles bronze medal they won at the World Championships in Tokyo last year. And this time, given their remarkable form, they have a strong chance to improve the colour of their medal.
Satwik-Chirag, the only Indian pair after Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa to win a Worlds medal, has been drawn at the bottom half of the draw. As the duo got a bye in the Round of 64, they will play either Leo Rolly Carnando-Daniel Marthin of Indonesia or Ben Lane-Sean Vendy of England in the third round. The Indians have defeated the Indonesians 21-16, 11-21, 21-13 at the Japan Open recently.
In the quarterfinal, they could face Kim Astrup-Anders Rasmussen of Denmark or Malaysia's Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi. The Indians trail the Dane pair 2-5. And that they are home contenders for the title, Satwik and Chirag may have tricky opponents in Astrup-Rasmussen. Against the Malaysians, the Indian combo has had a 4-3 lead. Given their recent phenomenal form, Satwik-Chirag should find it easy to counter either Astrup-Rasmussen or Yew Sin-Ee Yi pairs.
That they have a 3-2 upper hand over the world no. 1 Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto also make their bid for the gold medal stronger. If achieved, Satwik-Chirag will write a new chapter in the annals of Indian badminton.
In women's doubles, Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand - who have not had a good season on the World Tour - got a bye in the first round and will face the world no. 1 Chen Qing Chen and Jia Yi Fan in the round of 16. Ashwini Bhat-Shikha Gautam is the other Indian women's doubles combination playing at the World Championships.
Rohan Kapoor-N. Sikki Reddy and Venkat Gaurav Prasad-Juhi Dewangan will represent India in mixed doubles.