Asian Games 2014: Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu lead Indian challenge in badminton
Spearheaded by star shuttlers Saina Nehwal, P V Sindhu and Parupalli Kashyap, India will aim to end a 28-year-old medal drought when they begin their campaign in the 17th Asian Games badminton with the team competitions here tomorrow.
India’s last medal of any hue in badminton had come in 1986 when the men’s team claimed bronze.
Ever since badminton made its debut in the Asiad in 1966, India have managed just seven bronze medals with Syed Modi being the only singles medallist in 1982 and chief coach Pullela Gopichand’s wards will be eagar to end the wait.
London Olympics bronze medalist Saina Nehwal, smarting from her quarter final exit in the recent world championships in Copenhagen, would be eager to put it behind her and guide the team to a medal in the women’s team event ahead of her quest for individual glory.
Sindhu, her younger Hyderabad teammate and ranked world no 10, will go into the tournament with her confidence high after clinching her second successive bronze medal in world championships.
The 19-year-old Indian also won a bronze at the Asian Championship in Gimcheon in April before clinching a yellow medal in the women’s event in Uber Cup.
Tipped to win the gold in the Commonwealth Games, Sindhu had to settle for a bronze at Glasgow but the Indian shrugged off the disappointment by winning another medal of the same hue in the Danish capital where she drew accolades by shocking World No. 2 Wang Shixian.
World No. 7 Saina, on the other hand, goes into the tournament with Vimal Kumar to guide her after she shifted base to Bangalore to train at the Prakash Padukone Academy where the latter is the chief coach.
India are going to field a scratch doubles combination in women’s event in the absence of Jwala Gutta, who had to pull out due to a knee injury.
Ashwini Ponnappa has showed her preference for Sindhu as her doubles partner, but it will put huge pressure on the lanky 19-year-old Hyderabadi after her singles.
The women have an easy first round against Chinese Macao but face a tougher challenge against Thailand which will be spearheaded by former world champion Ratchanok Inthanon.
In the individual events too, the Indian women are likely to face top Chinese players such as World No. 1 Li Xuerui and World No. 2 Shixian Wang.