So it's back! The BWF World Championships. A month earlier than last year presumably because of the Asian Games due to begin in the middle of August. Last year's final was a 110 minute epic that Sindhu lost to Okuhara 19-21, 22-20, 20-22 having held one match point. It was one of those "where were you when" moments in sports history. If you thought last year was tough, this year is even tougher for our shuttlers.

Will the girls go one better this year?

Players (Seed):

P. V. Sindhu (3)
Saina Nehwal (10)

Potential Draw:

P. V. Sindhu:

R64: Bye
R32: Fitriani/Zetchiri
R16: Sun Ji Hyun (9)
QF: Nozomi Okuhara (8)
SF: Akane Yamaguchi (2)
F: Tai Tzu-ying (1)/ Saina Nehwal (10)

Saina Nehwal:

R64: Bye
R32: Jaquet/Demirbag
R16: Ratchanok Intanon (4)
QF: Carolina Marin (7)
SF: Tai Tzu-ying (1)
F: Akane Yamaguchi (2)/ P. V. Sindhu (3)

Last year India had 4 women in the draw, Tanvi Lad and Rituparna Das in addition to the two queens. This year we have just two usual suspects. Good news: Sindhu & Saina are in different halves of the draw. Bad news: Sindhu & Saina are in different halves of the draw. Not many realize how close we were to an all-India women's final in Glasgow. Saina, after a long injury layoff, rolled back the years and defeated no 2 seed Sun Ji Hyun, Kirsty Gilmour and faced Okuhara in the semis. Okuhara was coming off a 93 minute battle with Marin. Saina won game 1 21-12 and it was 17-17 in game 2. Okuhara dug deep and won the game 21-17 and the final game 21-10 to storm into the finals. 

It will tough to repeat last year's heroics for Saina because her draw is absolutely brutal. Intanon in the R16, Marin in the QFs and yama kiṅkari Tai Tzu-ying in the semis. If she somehow miraculously pulls it off, I doubt she'll have enough left in the tank to overcome Sindhu or Yamaguchi in the final. She hasn't been half bad this year, having made the finals of Indonesia masters, won the gold at Gold Coast, and lost an epic battle (25-27, 19-21) to Tai Tzu-ying at the Asia Championships. We all know how resilient the girl from Hisar is. Even if she goes down, it won't be without a fight. 

Sindhu is the higher seed, therefore her draw is relatively easier....only on paper. If you thought Sun Ji Hyun, with whom she has split her last 4 meetings, is a tough R16 opponent, then how much tougher is it to face the defending champion as early as the last eight? The semifinal will be another repeat of last year's Super Series Finals final that Sindhu lost from a game up to 21 year old Akane Yamaguchi. If she gets past this murderer's row, Tai Tzu-ying awaits. Sindhu has not defeated the Taiwanese ace since the Rio drubbing (21-13, 21-15), having lost 5 matches in a row. Tai Tzu-ying has won 5 titles this year, including the three big ones: Asia Championships, All England Open and Indonesia Open. Sindhu will draw confidence from the fact that she stretched TTY to 3 games in their last meeting in Malaysia.

Saina and Sindhu have ensured that India have won at least one singles medal since 2012 (in the Olympic year, the Olympic medal doubles as the World Championship medal). A streak of 6 consecutive podium finishes, 3 silver medals and 3 bronzes. We were so close to winning gold and silver last year but ended up with silver and bronze. This year the competition has gotten tougher. We are likelier to end up with no medals than two but both our shuttlers are resilient and fighters par excellence. Others will have to play at the proverbial 110% to beat our girls. They. Just. Do. Not. Give. Up.

Best of luck Saina & Sindhu!




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