Asian Games: Saina Nehwal, PV Sindhu Lead Indian Challenge in Badminton
World No. 7 Saina Nehwal goes into the Asian Games with Vimal Kumar to guide her after she shifted base to Bangalore to train at the Prakash Padukone Academy where the latter is the chief coach.
London Olympics bronze medallist Saina Nehwal, smarting from her quarter-final exit in the recent world championships in Copenhagen, would be eager to put it behind her and guide the team to a medal in the women's team event ahead of her quest for individual glory.
Sindhu, her younger Hyderabad team-mate and ranked world no 10, will go into the tournament with her confidence high after clinching her second successive bronze medal in world championships.
The 19-year-old Indian also won a bronze at the Asian Championship in Gimcheon in April before clinching a yellow medal in the women's event in Uber Cup.
Tipped to win the gold in the Commonwealth Games, Sindhu had to settle for a bronze at Glasgow but the Indian shrugged off the disappointment by winning another medal of the same hue in the Danish capital where she drew accolades by shocking World No. 2 Wang Shixian.
World No. 7 Saina, on the other hand, goes into the tournament with Vimal Kumar to guide her after she shifted base to Bangalore to train at the Prakash Padukone Academy where the latter is the chief coach.
India are going to field a scratch doubles combination in women's event in the absence of Jwala Gutta, who had to pull out due to a knee injury.
Ashwini Ponnappa has showed her preference for Sindhu as her doubles partner, but it will put huge pressure on the lanky 19-year-old Hyderabadi after her singles.
The women have an easy first round against Chinese Macao but face a tougher challenge against Thailand which will be spearheaded by former world champion Ratchanok Inthanon.
In the individual events too, the Indian women are likely to face top Chinese players such as World No. 1 Li Xuerui and World No. 2 Shixian Wang.
In the men's event, Commonwealth Games gold medallist Parupalli Kashyap will have a big point to prove after his early exit in the World Championship as India takes on the might of hosts South Korea in their opening encounter.
India had lost to Korea 2-3 during the Thomas Cup and it would be payback time for the men's team which will mainly depend on K Srikanth, RMV Gurusaidutt and Kashyap to get across the hosts.
Kashyap raised the country's hopes with a golden finish at the Glasgow CWG and despite his early exit at Copenhagen, he remains the best bet for finishing among the medals in the individual events.
However, it would be a uphill task as he will have to get past the likes of Olympic champion Lin Dan, his successor and current world champion Chen Long and World No. 1 Malaysian Lee Chong Wei, who would be the main contenders for the medals.
"It is going to a tough event. We haven't won many medals in the past but we have done well in the last two tournaments in CWG and the World Championship. So we hope that we will get good performances in the Asian Games also," Gopichand said.
"It will be tough to beat Korea in Korea. We have to see the conditions. I hope we do well. We have some time to practice and depending on our opponents, we will chalk out our combinations and strategies," he added.
Badminton events in the Asian Games will have the same format as it was during the Thomas and Uber Cup. The team events - men and women - will be held first, featuring three singles and two doubles each.