A day after defending champions India lost to Malaysia in the badminton mixed team final, the spotlight turns to singles and doubles where India are set to win a host of medals.
The Commonwealth Games field may not be the strongest, but there are still several steps ahead for Indian badminton players. Former World Champion PV Sindhu is looking for her first CWG gold after a silver (2018) and a bronze (2014). In men’s singles, India could well witness a double podium with Kidambi Srikanth and Lakshya Sen in good contact and the Malaysian Lee Jii Zia who skips the event.
In doubles, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty will be looking to convert their 2018 silver to gold while Ashwini Ponappa (playing mixed doubles with B Sumeeth Reddy) will seek his sixth CWG medal. All Indians have a first-round bye due to their higher rank.
India is the third most successful country in CWG history, behind England and Malaysia. In 2018, India won six medals (2 gold, 3 silver, 1 bronze) and the number may well increase this time.
Here’s a look at the Indians’ draws and odds in action
Only three Indian men have won CWG gold – legendary Prakash Padukone (1978), Syed Modi (1982) and more recently Parupalli Kashyap (Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei, winner in 2006, 2010 and 2018 was injured in 2014) .
Srikanth has a silver medal in 2018, losing to the Malaysian legend and will now look to change it to gold. Sen is making his Games debut but is the highest ranked Indian with strong performances over the past six months. They could both be on the podium. In the mixed team event, Sen defeated reigning world champion Loh Kean Yew of Singapore in the semi-finals to seal India’s place in the final. However, Srikanth lost in the final to world number 42 Tze Yong Ng which ended up being the deciding match. How he reacts to the loss will be crucial for the former world No.1’s prospects.
Sen and Srikanth, the second and third seeds, are placed in separate halves. Srikanth will have a possible quarter-final against England’s sixth seed Toby Penty while Sen has Mauritius’ eighth seed, Georges Paul, in his round of 16. Srikanth will open his campaign against Uganda’s Daniel Wanagaliya or Barbados’ Kennie King in the second round. He could face reigning world champion and top seeded Singaporean Loh Kean Yew in the semi-finals. Lakshya will face Vernon Smeed of Saint Helena with a potential semi-final against fourth seed Brian Yang of Canada.
Saina Nehwal is the only Indian woman to win a singles gold medal, having done so twice in 2010 in Delhi and 2018 on the Gold Coast. Sindhu will be looking to join her in the roster, having lost to the veteran in last edition’s final. The world number 7 is the favorite for gold, as the highest seed and absent the usual World Tour suspects. Canada’s Michelle Li is the second seed and Scotland’s Kirsty Gilmour also poses a threat; Sindhu has a superior head to head against the first (8-2) and 1-1 with the second.
The 27-year-old will start her campaign against Fathimath Abdul Razzaq of the Maldives and face a potential banana peel in sixth-seeded and former world junior champion Goh Jin Wei of Malaysia in the quarter-finals. Sindhu beat Wei in the mixed tag team final, but not before being stretched by the youngster and it could be a potential banana peel after a week of daily matches.
Fifth-seeded Aakarshi Kashyap will open his campaign against the winner of the draw between Guyana Priyanna Devirani Ramdhani and Pakistan’s Mahoor Shahzad. She takes on third seed Gilmour in the quarters, which will be a challenge for the 20-year-old, who is fairly inexperienced on the BWF tour.
The biggest challenge for second-seeded Satwik-Chirag will be Malaysian top seeds Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik, who beat them in the final mixed tag team match on Tuesday. England third seeds Ben Lane and Sean Vendy; Alexander Dunn and Adam Hall, Scotland’s fourth seeds in the same half, can also be a challenge.
The 2018 Gold Coast silver medalists and now Thomas Cup champions, in their own words, are fired up after the mixed team silver medal, and the youngsters can beat anyone when the day comes. They open their campaign either against the Pakistani duo Ali Murad and Muhammad Bhatti, or against the South Africans, Jarred Elliott and Robert Summers. In the mixed team event they hadn’t played all the doubles ties together, swapping men’s doubles and mixed doubles with B Sumeeth Reddy – but that won’t be a problem for one of the top men’s pairs ground.
Making their CWG debuts in the city where they had their biggest break (All England semi-finals), Gayatri Gopichand and Treesa Jolly will have a job to do. They are the fourth seed but have not played together for some time due to Gayatri’s injury and have won two of the four matches played in the mixed team event.
Despite losing their tie in the mixed tag team final, the duo have the potential to turn the tide. Already in their first year as a couple, they won a Super 100 title in Odisha, finished runners-up at the Syed Modi International and won national trials with an unbeaten record, against experienced couples such as 2018 CWG medalists Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy.
They will open their campaign against Ugandans Sharifa Wanyana and Justine Tracy Naulwooza or Mauritians Ganesha Mungrah and Jemimah Leung For Sang.
Ashwini Ponnappa and B. Sumeeth Reddy will team up in mixed doubles and this is an event in which the Indians are unseeded. This means they open their campaign against sixth seeds and local favorites Jessica Pugh and Callum Hemming in the second round. They played three mixed team matches (Ashwini played one with Satwik) and won them all.