India's monumental rise in world badminton has been an extraordinary story, but the one thing that the Indian shuttlers have failed to achieve is World Championships success. Only four Indian players or teams have managed podium finishes: Prakash Padukone, the pair of Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa, Saina Nehwal, and P.V. Sindhu.
And none of them managed to go all the way, having failed excruciatingly short of that gold medal. India is set to send another bunch of medal hopefuls to the World Championships, which are being held in Basel, Switzerland this time. Spearheading the contingent will be star singles players, including Nehwal and Sindhu.
Both these women would ideally want to go all the way at the prestigious tournament, and earn that the elusive medal. However, the reality is that neither of them have been in the best of form leading up to Basel and a gold medal might seem like an unrealistic goal this time around.
Talking of the draw, the eighth-seed Saina and the fifth-seeded Sindhu have both been placed in the bottom half and have a chance of facing each other in the semi-finals. Their path, however, is not going to be easy.
Saina has received a bye in the first round and should not have much trouble reaching the quarter-finals. It is here that she might face her first real test in the form of Chinese 4th seed Chen Yufei. While Saina has defeated Yufei in the past, her recent form against the higher-ranked opponent has been poor.
The Commonwealth Games champion lost her last two matches against Yufei in straight games, without much fight. Add to that, the Chinese player's superb form in 2019 and Saina has indeed a big task at hand. She will have to be at her absolute best to even pose a challenge to a confident-looking Yufei.
Things will be similarly tricky for Sindhu who has been drawn in the quarter featuring former World No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei. Sindhu, who has a dismal record against the Taiwanese star, has a lot more at stake as she will be defending her silver medal showing from last two years.
Sindhu did find some form in her last couple of outings on the tour and will definitely be looking to build on that. Tai has also been having an inconsistent year and might not be as formidable as she was maybe a year ago. Sindhu will have to make the best of whatever opportunities she gets in her match.
And if all goes per plan, Sindhu and Saina will clash in the semi-finals, ensuring India's participation in the summit clash. However, all of this seems very unlikely for either Saina or Sindhu considering their inconsistency this year. All things considered, the two star athletes need to take it one match at a time and give their best under these tough circumstances. A medal at this point, be it any colour, will only be a bonus.Published 18 Aug 2019, 16:19 IST