Shuttlers aim to challenge China's long-standing rule

Stung by a coach-pupil controversy and smarting from a blank visit at the last edition in Guangzhou, Indian shuttlers will be determined to prove a point when the badminton action kicks off here with team competition at the Gyeyang Gymnasium here on Saturday

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With the Chinese ruling the sport, much of the hopes rested on Saina Nehwal last time around but the Indian ace crashed out in the quarters. Fours years on and things appear to have to changed with PV Sindhu expected to share the singles burden with Saina. The duo are the main medal contenders, the pull-out of Jwala Gutta due to injury delivering a blow in the women’s doubles.

In terms of pure form, Sindhu holds the aces ahead of her senior colleague Saina. The 19-year-old, although ranked 10th in the world as compared to Saina’s 7th, heads into Asiad with two major medals around her neck.

She won the bronze at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow and followed it up with medal of the same colour at the World Championships where her gritty win over World No 2 Wang Shixian drew plenty of plaudits.

On the other hand, Saina hasn’t enjoyed the best of seasons by her own standards with injuries hurting her campaign. She lost in the quarterfinals of the World Championships and her immediate decision to temporarily part with mentor P Gopichand and train with Vimal Kumar in Bangalore sparked off some needless bad news.

Biggest threat

The biggest threat for both Sindhu and Saina are Chinese stars Li Xuerui and Shixian, ranked No 1 and 2 in the world respectively. 

Much cannot be said in the men’s singles despite Parupalli Kashyap’s golden show at the Glasgow CWG. With the living legend Lin Dan, Lee Chong Wei and Chen Wong in the draw, Kashyap needs a miracle to even lay his hands on a bronze.

Heavy toll

The doubles hopes hinge on Ashwini Ponnappa but following Jwala’s absence, it remains to be seen with whom she will pair up. While she has expressed her interest to team up with Sindhu, the team management may not oblige as that could put a heavy toll on latter.

In the team championships which will kick off on Saturday, the Indian men take on hosts Korea while the women will play Macau. 

While Macau may not test Indian women much, a meeting with Thailand awaits them in the next round – the quarterfinals. The singles and doubles action starts on Wednesday.Just seven bronze medals in the Indian kitty so far shows how tough the competition is at the continental level. It would take a big effort from someone to effect a turnaround in fortunes.

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