BWF World Championships: Carolina Marin returns with PV Sindhu eyeing semifinal clash; Kidambi Srikanth and Lakshya Sen face tricky draw

PV Sindhu faces a tricky path to a potential semifinal clash against old rival Carolina Marin at the BWF World Championships. PTI/Kamal Kishore

PV Sindhu will face her old rival Carolina Marin, who returns from a lengthy injury lay-off, in her title defence of the World Championships later this month. Their possible meeting will be in the semis, but before that Sindhu has two tricky matches - World No 1 Tai Tzu Ying in the quarters, and Pornpawee Chochuwong in the previous round.

Marin's return to action

Both Tai and Marin have been invisible on the Tour for months together - the Chinese Taipei player has not featured in any tournament since her Olympic silver in August. Marin, who was last seen at the European Championships in April, suffered an ACL tear on her left knee and underwent surgery, thereby missing the Tokyo Games. This appearance at the Worlds will mark her return to competitive action, in her hometown Huelva, at a sports pavilion that bears her name.

"It's true that this recovery has been much tougher for me than the other one (ACL tear on right knee two years ago)," Marin was quoted to have told Spanish news agency EFE, "The last two years have been very tough for me: an injury, loss of a family member (her father died in July 2020) and another injury. Very difficult changes, constantly. The blows that life gives you...but you have to be able to adapt."

Given her absence since April, Marin cannot feature in the BWF World Tour Finals that are underway in Bali, due to a lack of points earned this calendar year. She is still ranked No 5 in the world though, so her participation in the Worlds is secure. Ordinarily, the World Championships are not held in the same year as the Olympics, but this year is an exception.

Sindhu's path to potential glory

Sindhu's trials could begin as early as the pre-quarterfinals, where she could go up against the stubborn spirit of Thailand's Pornpawee Chochuwong. The two have played each other six times before, with Sindhu holding a 4-2 lead. The last time they met was at the All England Open earlier this year which ended in favour of the 23 year old Thai player. Sindhu, yet to make a final in the four tournaments she's played since the Olympics, typically carries an appetite that peaks around the major events and in two weeks' time she'll be counting on it for deliverance.

In the other half of the draw, Nozomi Okuhara will also be making her first appearance since a quarterfinal exit at the Olympics. She is bunched together with country-mate Akane Yamaguchi and Korean breakout star An Seyoung. Olympic champion Chen Yufei will be missing the competition, so will Saina Nehwal, for the first time in her international career. Saina, who has been out of form for a while now, is recovering from a knee injury and a groin pull.

Srikanth and Lakshya face a tough draw

In the men's singles, Kidambi Srikanth and Lakshya Sen are poised to face high hurdles in their path. Srikanth has been drawn to play promising Chinese youngster Li Shifeng, who made heads turn at this year's Thomas Cup with a clutch of notable scalps, in the second round and world No 4 Chou Tien Chen in the pre-quarterfinals. 2018 bronze medalist Sai Praneeth has been drawn in the same quarter as Srikanth and will open against Dutch star Mark Caljouw, who'd sent the Indian packing in Tokyo while Lakshya will yet again run into the might of Kento Momota - this time in a likely third round.

Olympic champions Lee Yang and Wang Chi-Lin have been placed in the same quarter as the world No 9 pair of Satwik Sairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty. The Chinese Taipei duo had prevailed over the Indians in the group stages of the Olympics and are pooled together for this week's World Tour Finals as well which should act as a primer for what lies ahead.