With so much speculations encircling the controversial new service rule, Indian shuttlers will eye the prestigious All England championships 2018 starting Wednesday, something which the present national coach Pullela Gopichand won 17 years ago. The tournament is considered to be the most coveted and dreamy honour for any of the shuttler. India had its chances in the past when Prakash Padukone and Gopichand won the title in 1980 and 2001 respectively.
Saina Nehwal will start of her campaign against the defending champion and world no. 1 Tai Tzu Ying, who has proved to be an unbeatable prospect in the recent while for either of the Indian women shuttlers. Saina last met Tai in the finals of Indonesia masters, where the Taipei’s player dominated the proceedings to lift the title.
Kidambi Srikanth and PV Sindhu are expected to clear the first hurdle having got an easy draw. Fourth seed Sindhu would open her campaign against former world junior championships silver medalist Pornpawee Chochuwong from Thailand in the opening round. She could face Beiwen Zhang of United States in the second round.
Srikanth will face 23rd ranked Frenchman Brice Leverdez in the first round.
When Saina was asked about facing world No 1 in the first round, she said: “Tai Tzu has won a number of tournaments last year, so it is not only the Indians who are losing to her. She is the best player right now, she is tricky, she is very focussed but it is not that we can’t beat her.
“We will have to figure out a way to beat her. I think it is a matter of time,” the world No 11 had exuded confidence during a recent interaction.
For Sindhu, it will be about setting the record straight against Zhang, who beat her at the Indian Open.
“I have six weeks of training under my belt and I hope I do well at All England Championships. There are many tournaments this year, So I just hope that I give my best and play my game,” the Rio Olympic silver medallist said.
The immensely talented Srikanth will like to keep the guard up as the French shuttler has a good defensive game, which enabled him to dispatch former world no 1 Lee Chong Wei in the first round at last year’s World Championship.
“The All England is one most prestigious events because it has history of 100 years attached to it. Prakash sir and Gopichand sir have done extremely well at the All England. They will always be a source of inspiration for us. I would say winning these tournaments, will definitely give the player legendary status,” said the world no 3 Indian.
World no. 14, HS Prannoy will return from injury and will be up against the 8th seeded Chou Tien Chen of Chinese Taipei. World no. 14, Sai Praneeth will face former world no. 1 Son Won Ho of Korea.
India’s promising men doubles pair of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty will face will face Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi of Japan. They may meet Carten Mogensen and Matthias Boe in the second round.
Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy will clash with Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge in the opening round, while women’s doubles pair of Ashwini Ponnappa and N Sikki Reddy will face second seeds Japanese combo of Misaki Matsumo and Ayaka Takahashi. Mixed doubles combo of Pranaav Jerry Chopra and Sikki will square off against German pair of Marvin Emil Seidel and Linda Efler.