Indian shuttlers came home with two medals from the prestigious tournament.
The BWF World Championships are one the most prestigious badminton tournaments, up there with the Olympics. Achieving success in this competition is extremely tough, as the best of the best from the badminton world come to participate. The 2021 edition of the tournament was held in Huelva, Spain and involved several major Indian shuttlers. These athletes were representing India and were aiming to write their names in the history books.
Post the conclusion of the tournament, there were several takeaways for the Indian badminton fraternity. The contingent put in a gallant effort and some of them were very impressive, while others were disappointing.
Focusing on the overall performance of the Indian shuttlers at the BWF World Championships, here are the three ups and downs from the tournament:
Performance in singles bracket
Indian shuttlers were very resilient in the tournament, especially the players competing in the singles category. For the past year or more, the singles bracket usually saw P.V. Sindhu lead the charge and the male shuttlers were particularly disappointing in several major tournaments.
However, the BWF World Championship 2021 saw two male shuttlers take the initiative and finish amongst the medals. Moreover, H.S Prannoy defeated No. 1 seed Rasmus Gemke in Round 3, which was a major upset in the men’s singles bracket. Infact in the men’s singles semi-final, Kidambi Srikanth went head-to-head with Lakshya Sen. This was the first all-Indian semi final in any singles event in the competition’s history. This was a significant step forward for the men’s singles bracket in Indian badminton.
Rise of Lakshya Sen
Lakshya Sen ensured himself a first-ever World Championship medal by reaching the semi-final stage in men’s singles. He came up against his countryman Kidambi Srikanth and lost the encounter by 17-21, 21-14, 21-17. Defeating a much higher ranked Kenta Nishimoto was one of the highlights of Sen’s bronze medal-winning performance in Spain. Infact, this was the youngster’s debut camapign at the BWF World Championships.
This was Sen’s first-ever medal in a major international tournament and what it did was signal the beginning of a new star in Indian badminton. Things now look onward and upward for the youngster.
Kidambi Srikanth’s return to form
Kidambi Srikanth was at one point of time, the most in-form star in the Indian badminton circuit. In the period between 2017-18, he came home with four gold medals at four different BWF Super Series events. He even clinched a gold and a silver medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games. However, his form dwindled since then. In major tournaments, he failed to win a single medal. In fact, he never went past the quarter-final stage. However things panned out differently this time.
Kidambi Srikanth was the most successful Indian at the tournament. He became the first Indian male shuttler to reach the final of the BWF World Championship.The former World No. 1 also became the first Indian male shuttler to win a silver medal at the event. Thanks to the silver medal, he becomes only the third male shuttler after Prakash Padukone and Sai Praneeth to bag a World Championship medal.
It is not just this medal win, but the manner in which he went about this victory is what is impressive. There was a certain air of confidence in his stroke play, something which was missing in the last few tournaments. Is this the start of a new and improved Kidambi Srikanth? Only time will tell.
P.V. Sindhu’s disappointing performance
PV Sindhu was the biggest medal contender for India before the BWF World Championships began. There were high hopes from the two-time Olympic medalist, who was also the sixth seed. However, P.V. Sindhu could not add to her five World Championships medals. The only Indian shuttler to ever win gold, she faced elimination in the quarter-final against Tai Tzu-ying by 21-17, 21-13, who was also the number one seed.
Ever since her bronze medal win at the Tokyo Olympics, PV Sindhu has failed to win a single medal at any major event this year. In fact, she has made her way to the semi-final only once, in the Indonesia Open.
Sai Praneeth’s shock elimination
Sai Praneeth was the only second Indian male shuttler to win a World Championships medal. He won bronze during the 2019 edition and expectedly, the hopes were high from the player. However, he exited the tournament with a whimper
Unfortunately, the World No. 15 bowed out from the tournament in the first round in itself. He suffered a defeat against Mark Caljouw thanks to a 17-21, 21-7, 21-18 scoreline. This defeat came as a shock, because Sai Praneeth was in good form coming into the tournament, and was the favourite to outclass Caljouw, who is ranked lower than him.
No challenge in doubles category
While the Indian shuttlers delivered impressive performances in the singles category, there was a lot of disappointment in doubles. The best hopes of a medal in the doubles rested on the shoulders of Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty in Men’s Doubles. They lost in Round 3 to Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi of Malaysia by 22-20, 18-21, 21-15.
Ashwini Ponappa and N. Sikki Reddy also reached Round 3 in the women’s doubles category and no other pair went higher than that. No mixed doubles pair even managed to clear the first round at the BWF World Championships.