Hyderabad: Ever since Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth rose into prominence in world badminton there have been hopes of a third Indian after Prakash Padukone and Pullela Gopichand of winning the All England championship title.
Saina came close in 2015. Although she made history by becoming the first Indian women to reach the finals, she lost to Carolina Marin in the summit clash. Sindhu’s best show was last year when she entered the last four stages but was beaten by Akane Yamaguchi of Japan.
As the prestigious tournament begins in Birmingham from Wednesday, all eyes will be on this Indian trio for one of them to break the 18-year-old jinx. Padukone won it in 1981 while Gopichand triumphed in 2001.
In a fiercely competitive field, the Indians face tough draws. But as Gopichand said the best are in the fray in the tournaments like All England. “The challenge is always there. The atmosphere is totally different. It is totally different feeling when you play and win in Wembley. It is all about of handling the pressure and holding the nerves,’’ said Gopichand.
Although, there has been talk of tough draws, Gopichand said it is all about preparations. “The mental toughness is very important. I think if the preparation is good then any quality player should not have any problem. ’’
Gopichand further added that Saina, Sindhu and Srikanth can fancy their chances in the tournament. “The draws are tough but then most of the tournaments have become very competitive.’’
Of the three, Sindhu straightaway runs into former World No. 2 Sung Ji Hyun of South Korea.
Former National coach U Vimal Kumar says Sung is a gritty customer. ‘’Sindhu is little shaky in the first round matches and she gradually gets into a good rhythm as the tournament progresses. In the quarterfinals, she could run into World No.3 Chen Yufei. It is an interesting clash but Sindhu on her day can demolish any opponent as she did in BWF World Tour Finals,’’ he said.
Given her recent performances, Vimal said Saina, seeded eighth, is in upswing. “She has a new confidence. As compared to Sindhu, Saina has a better draw although Scotland’s Kristy Gilmour is a tricky player. Saina has the possibility of facing World No. 1 Tai Tzu Ying in the quarterfinals.
“Carolina Marin was one of the main threats. With injured Spaniard out of the tournament, the tournament looks open. Saina has beaten most of the players. Perhaps a win against Tai would be the icing on the cake for Saina as she has looked comfortable against the Japanese.’’
For the record, Saina has lost to Tai for the last 12 successive times.
The other Indian who can go the distance is Srikanth. He will clash with Brice Leverdez of France in the opening round.
The lack of match practice could be a problem for Srikanth but he has been training hard since three weeks. But he had reached the quarterfinals of the Malaysia and Indonesia tournaments. He is hoping for reversal of fortunes.