PV Sindhu, a two-time Olympic medalist from India, will look to defend her title at the BWF World Championships, which kick off on Sunday.
Sindhu has been in great form, winning her second silver medal at the season-ending World Tour Finals after finishing in the semifinals of the French Open, Indonesia Masters, and Indonesia Open.
The 26-year-old from Hyderabad will now try to finish the season by successfully defending her first World Championship title, which she won two years ago in Basel, Switzerland.
With the departures of the whole Indonesia contingent and other elite players such as two-time winner Kento Momota, the tournament has lost a lot of sheen.
The absence of three-time champion Caroline Marin and 2017 winner Nozomi Okuhara has further weakened the women’s singles lineup.
Saina Nehwal, the London Olympics bronze medalist and 2015 silver medalist, will also miss the World Championships for the first time in her career due to multiple injuries.
While Sindhu will be optimistic about her chances, defending the championship will be much easier said than done, as she will play the likes of ninth seeded Thai Pornpowee Chochuwong, top seed Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei, and Korea’s tees sensation Kim Seyoung.
An Seyoung has been on a roll, winning back-to-back titles at the Indonesia Masters and the Indonesia Open before winning her first World Tour Final title and being the first woman from her country to do so.
Sindhu, who received a first-round bye, will face Martina Repiska, whose first-round opponent Ruselli Hartawan also withdrew.
If she wins, she will face Pornpawee Chochuwong, who has defeated the Indian twice in the last two meetings.
If PV Sindhu manages to cross the Thai border, she would quite likely be paired against Tai Tzu, who has proven to be her nemesis with a 14-5 head-to-head record, including wins in the last four matches.
In the men’s singles, 12th seeded Kidambi Srikanth, who struggled to obtain a visa, will face Spain’s Pablo Abian in the first round, while Tokyo Olympian B Sai Praneeth will face Dutch Mark Caljouw.
Former top ten player HS Prannoy will face eighth seed Na Ka Long Angus in the first round, and Lakshya Sen’s first-round opponent has also withdrawn.
The men’s doubles team has been similarly reduced, with the top two seeds — both from Indonesia – missing.
Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Sheety, the eighth seeded Indian pair, got a bye in the first round and will face the winners of Lee Jhu-Huei and Yang Po-Hsuan and Fabricio Farias and Francielton Farias in doubles.
After their first-round opponents withdrew, women’s doubles pair N Sikki Reddy and Ashwini Ponnappa will play 14th seeds Liu Xuan Xuan and Xia Yu Ting.