New-look India eye elusive medal at Sudirman Cup

Suzhou (China): Star shuttlers PV Sindhu and HS Prannoy will look to hit top gear as the Indian badminton team begins its campaign at the BWF Sudirman Cup with a blockbuster clash against a formidable Chinese Taipei here on Sunday.

India have always depended on their singles stars to deliver at the team championships and a lot will again ride on them as the country aim to clinch a first-ever medal in the World mixed team championships.

Bolstered by the epic Thomas Cup win, India will now hope to display their might in the mixed team event with men’s pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, and women’s combination of Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand set to play pivotal roles in the campaign.

India have been placed along with Malaysia, Chinese Taipei and Australia in Group C with the two top teams qualifying for the knockout stage.

The Indian team, which qualified for the prestigious event after claiming bronze at the Asian Badminton Championships in Dubai last month, will have their task cut out when they face a strong Chinese Taipei team, led by Olympic silver medallist Tai Tzu Ying.

A lot will depend on Sindhu as she is expected to face former world no. 1 Tai Tzu, who has proved to be a nemesis for her, having lost 17 times in 22 meetings so far.

In fact, the last time Sindhu had defeated the world number 3 was on way to her world championships title in 2019.

World number 9 Prannoy too will face a tough battle as he is likely to be pitted against world number 5 Chou Tien Chen, considered one of the most consistent player in the men’s singles competition.

The two has played eight times so far with Chou winning five times. However, Prannoy had success against the Taipei player, having beaten him twice in last three meetings, all in 2022.

India will also look up to Satwik and Chirag to give them a valuable point, though it is easier said than done as they face Taipei’s first Olympic gold medallist in badminton, world number 12 Lee Yang and Wang Chi-Lin.

The two pairs faced off recently at the Asia Championships but the clash ended with the Taipei pair retiring midway due to an injury.

In women’s doubles, world number 17 Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand will hope to get across the world number 24 pairing of Lee Chia Hsin and Teng Chun Hsun if they cross swords.

For India, mixed doubles is likely to be the weakest link as Ashwini Ponnappa and K Sai Prateek would be looking to punch above their weight if they come across world number 23 Ye Hong Wei and Lee Chia Hsin.

On Monday, India will clash against Malaysia and it will be a fascinating battle with the likes of world number 8 Lee Zii Jia, Aaron Chia/Soh Wooi Yik, Pearly Tan/Thinaah Muralitharan, Goh Soon Huat/Shevon Jemie Lai and Tan Kian Meng/Lai Pei Jing standing on the way.

While Prannoy and Treesa/Gayatri will take inspiration from their recent wins over Lee Zii Jia and Pearly/Thinnah en route India’s 4-1 win over Malaysia at ABC, Satwik and Chirag will be itching to overturn a dismal 0-7 record against Aaron and Soh.

Sindhu too will hope to keep her stranglehold over Goh Jin Wei.

India’s final tie of the group will be on Wednesday against Australia.

India have reached the quarterfinals twice in the 2011 and 2017 editions but haven’t crossed the last eight stage. In the last edition at Vantaa, Finland, India couldn’t make it to the knockout stage.

Continental champions China will look to grab their 13th title, while other top teams in the fray include Japan, 1989 champions Indonesia, four-time winners Korea, Japan, Thailand, Singapore and Denmark.