BWF World Championships 2022: Indians' draws and medal chances in PV Sindhu's absence

Srikanth Kidambi, Loh Kean Yew, Anders Antonsen and Lakshya Sen on the podium at the 2021 BWF World Championships JOSE JORDAN/AFP via Getty Image

The 2022 edition of the BWF World Championships will be held from 22 to 28 August in Tokyo, just eight months after the pandemic-delayed 2021 edition in Spain which saw two Indian men on the podium for the first time.

PV Sindhu, the most successful Indian at the Worlds with five medals, had to withdraw due to a stress fracture sustained during the Commonwealth Games. In men's singles, India's top three - Kidambi Srikanth, Lakshya Sen, HS Prannoy - are all placed in the same half, which means only one of them can reach the semis.

India's medal hopes, meanwhile, will be spearheaded by recently-crowned Commonwealth Games champions Lakshya Sen and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty. They have form and momentum on their side, with a slightly more helpful draw in doubles as well.

ESPN looks at the Indians' draws and chances at the 2022 badminton World Championship:

Men's singles

Kidambi Srikanth, Lakshya Sen, HS Prannoy, B Sai Praneeth

On paper, India's best chance is in the men's singles given individual form guide, despite the extremely tough draw that three of them have received.

Three of these players have won a Worlds medal in the last three years. In 2021, Srikanth became the first Indian man to reach a Worlds final while the tournament also started the breakthrough season for Lakshya - who lost the all-Indian semifinal. In 2019, Sai Praneeth had ended India's 36-year wait for a men's singles medal with a bronze. Prannoy, on his part, will be raring to go after having to miss the CWG as the third highest ranked player (only top two went) despite being in good touch. Srikanth, Lakshya and Prannoy were also instrumental in India's historic Thomas Cup triumph earlier this year.

In this background, it is a real setback to have those three in the same section, alongside world No 5 Lee Zii Jia (who skipped the CWG to focus on the Worlds) as well as former world champion and home favourite Kento Momota.

Lakshya will start his campaign against Hans-Kristian Solberg Vittinghus of Denmark and if he wins, will then play the winner of Daniel Nikolov and Luis Enrique Penalver. Prannoy will start against Luka Wraber of Austria with his potential next opponent being Momota. The former champion has a 7-0 head-to-head against Prannoy, but Momota has been struggling to find form since his comeback from a car accident. If Prannoy can win, it could set up an early all-Indian clash. Lakshya has a 2-1 head-to-head record but Prannoy beat him the last time they met, in the first round of the Indonesia Masters in June.

Srikanth will start his campaign against Nhat Nguyen and will likely face fifth seed Lee Zii Jia in the third round. Last time's silver medallist is coming off two straight losses to Ng Tze Yong - who replaced Jia in Malaysia's CWG squad - and has a 0-2 head-to-head record.

In the top quarter, the lone Indian is Sai Praneeth and he starts against fourth seed Chou Tien Chen so a repeat of the double podium looks extremely unlikely for India.

Among the players to watch out will be world No 1 Viktor Axelsen, who is on a 31-match winning streak and had lost just one match he has played this year, that to Lakshya Sen. Defending champion Loh Kean Yew - who had stunned Olympic champion Axelsen last year - will also look to raise his level while third seed Anders Antonsen could also be a contender.

Women's singles

Saina Nehwal, Malvika Bansod

In Sindhu's absence, the women's singles chances look bleak, unless the 2015 silver medallist and former world no. 1 Saina Nehwal can mount a stunning run or maybe world No. 47 Malvika Bansod can have a breakthrough event.

Saina, now ranked 33 will have a point to prove after being excluded from the CWG - she had sought exemption from trials and not received it. The draw has opened up for her after her second-round opponent and former champion Nozomi Okuhara withdrew. If she can win her first round against Cheung Ngan Yi of Hong Kong, she will likely face 12th seed Busanan Ongbamrungphan in the third round. The Indian has shown signs of the old spark, chief being the win over He Bing Jiao at Singapore, but at 32 years of age and lack of big-match practice, it remains a tough ask.

For 20-year-old Malvika Bansod, her debut world championship starts against first 21-st ranked Line Christophersen from Denmark in the first round. If she wins that, she will take on the in-form 11th seed Wang Zhi Yi of China; an opponent as tough as it gets for a youngster at the world stage.

Men's doubles

Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty, Manu Attri and B Sumeeth Reddy, Krishna Prasad Garaga and Vishnuvardhan Goud Panjula, M R Arjun and Dhruv Kapila

While India will have four entrants in the men's doubles, all eyes will be on 'Sat-Chi' - the world No 7 pair who have won Thomas Cup and CWG. The Indians have a bye in the first round and have a winnable second round match. The first seeded opponents they will face is in the third round, 11th-seeded Goh V Shem and Tan Wee Kiong. The Malaysians have a 2-0 head-to-head advantage, but they have played each other only in 2018, before the Indians became the consistent presence they are now.

If they do win, they face a potential quarterfinal against the winners of 15th seeds Muhammad Shohibul Fikri and Bagas Maulana and defending champions Hoki Takuro and Kobayashi Yugo, seeded second. Both will be tough encounters for the Indians, but winning it would ensure a first men's doubles medal for India.

Women's doubles

Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand, Ashwini Ponappa and N Sikki Reddy, Pooja Dandu and Sanjana Santosh, Ashwini Bhat and Shikha Gautam

A medal in women's doubles won't be easy, even for former winner Ashwini Ponappa, who is partnering Sikki Reddy and are drawn to meet top seeds and defending champions Chen Qing Chen and Jia Yi Fan of China in the second round.

Gayatri Gopcihand and Treesa Jolly, who won bronze at the CWG, will open against Low Yeen Yuan and Valeree Siow of Malaysia. If they win, they will run into 10th seeds Pearly Tan and Thinaah Muralitharan, who beat them twice at Birmingham.

Mixed doubles

Ishaan Bhatnagar and Tanisha Crasto, Venkat Gaurav Prasad and Juhi Dewangan

A mixed doubles medal will be a difficult ask with both Indian pairs (unseeded) set to face seeded opponents if they cross the first round.