Commonwealth Games 2022 gold medallist Lakshya Sen and bronze medal winner Kidambi Srikanth will lead India's challenge and will be top medal hopes at the BWF World Championships 2022 in absence of injured P.V. Sindhu, who will miss the tournament, starting here on Monday.
Lakshya, seeded ninth, clinched a bronze medal in the 2021 edition of the tournament in Huelva. He had entered the championship unseeded but went on to cause major upsets, including the victory over Tokyo Olympics semi-finalist Kevin Cordon.
The 21-year-old Indian lost to compatriot Kidambi Srikanth in the semifinal and settled for bronze.
India will also expect 12th seed Kidambi Srikanth, who won silver in 2021, to fire on all cylinders. He was the first Indian man to reach the finals of the BWF World Championships and return with a silver medal, losing to Loh Kean Yew of Singapore in straight sets in the final last time around.
Apart from Srikanth and Lakshya, B Sai Praneeth, the bronze medallist of the 2019 edition and HS Prannoy are also capable of springing a surprise.
However, the Indian men will have to pass through World No 1 and top seed Viktor Axelsen for a podium finish. The All England Open champion has been on a 31-match winning streak. Defending champion Yew (seeded eighth), Anders Antonsen (third seed) of Denmark, and Lee Zii Jia (fifth seed) of Malaysia will also make the competition challenging.
In the doubles category, India will have high hopes from CWG 2022 gold medallists Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty.
In the women's singles section, both Sindhu and Japan's Nozomi Okuhara will miss the action due to stress fractures.
World No. 33 Saina Nehwal, unseeded this time, will be looking to return to form at the Tokyo event. The former World No. 1 will try to gain the upper hand in the absence of Okuhara and Sindhu. She will face Cheung Ngan Yi in the first round, against whom she has a 3-1 head-to-head record.
The 32-year-old Saina has two World Championship medals -- a silver in the 2015 edition, followed by a bronze in 2017.
Top seed and reigning champion Akane Yamaguchi of Japan is the frontrunner for the title among the women, followed by Tai Tzu-Ying (second seed) of Taiwan and Chen Yufei (fourth seed) of China, who will return to the championship after a one-year gap.
Notably, India have won 12 medals at the World Badminton Championships, but the only gold came in 2019 through Sindhu. India, with 26 players, are third in terms of player representation at the world meet behind Japan (32) and Malaysia (27).
Indian squad for World Championships:
Men's singles: Lakshya Sen, Kidambi Srikanth, B. Sai Praneeth, HS Prannoy
Women's singles: Saina Nehwal, Malvika Bansod
Men's doubles: Chirag Shetty/Satwiksairaj Rankireddy, Manu Attri/B Sumeeth Reddy, Krishna Prasad Garaga/Vishnuvardhan Goud Panjula, MR Arjun/Dhruv Kapila
Women's doubles: Treesa Jolly/Gayatri Gopichand, Ashwini Ponnappa/N Sikki Reddy, Ashwini Bhat/Shikha Gautam, Pooja Dandu/Sanjana Santosh
Mixed doubles: Ishaan Bhatnagar/Tanisha Crasto and Venkat Gaurav Prasad/Juhi Dewangan