Birmingham: India’s formidable duo of P V Sindhu and Kidambi Srikanth will have no dearth of motivation as they aim to win the coveted All England Championships starting Wednesday — something their mentor P Gopichand won 17 summers back.
The All England Championship is considered to be the ultimate glory for any shuttler worth his salt and in India only Prakash Padukone (1980) and Gopichand (2001) earned their rights to stand on the victory podium.
Sindhu and Srikanth are expected to have easy first round outings against relatively unheralded opponents but the road is tricky for former finalist Saina Nehwal, who will face none other than world no 1 and defending champion Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei in the lung opener.
Tai Tzu has proved to be her nemesis with an overall nine-five record against her. The Indian has lost the last seven outings, the most recent being at the Indonesia Masters final early in the year.
Fourth seed Sindhu, on the other hand, would open her campaign against a relatively unknown Thail shuttler Pornpawee Chochuwong but could face her India Open conqueror Beiwen Zhang in the next.
Srikanth, meanwhile, seems to have an easy opening round against Frenchman Brice Leverdez.
Saina came agonisingly close three years ago, losing the final to Carolina Marin, while Sindhu’s quarterfinal finish in 2017 has been her best shot in the Championships so far.
Men’s world no 3 Srikanth enjoyed a fabulous 2017, where he won four Super Series title and is certainly one of the contenders in the men’s section with world No 1 Viktor Axelsen out of the tournament due to ankle injury.
When Saina was asked about facing the 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 focused but it is not that we can’t beat her.”
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 to do well at the 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.
Sai Praneeth will take on former world number on Son Wan Ho of Korea in the opening roundwhile H S Prannoy is drawn to take on eighth seed Chou Tien Chen of Chinese Taipei.
In the doubles events, Chirag Shetty and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy will face Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi of Japan.
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.
Slammed by most of the top players and coaches, the controversial service rule which says a shuttlecock shall be held less than 1.15 metres (3.8 feet) from a court’s surface before serving will also be tried out at the All England Open.