BWF World Championships preview: Satwik-Chirag in focus as India look to continue medal streak

File photo of Lakshya Sen, PV Sindhu, Satwiksaraj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty ESPN/Getty Images

The 2023 badminton World Championships will be held between August 21 to 27 in Copenhagen, Denmark.

The Worlds have come at a point in the season where most Indian players are in good touch and poised for either a big breakthrough (HS Prannoy, Lakshya Sen, Satwiksaraj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty) or need a turning point (PV Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand.)

India's rising profile in badminton is evidenced by the fact that an Indian has a won a medal in every edition of the Worlds since 2011 - a streak that should continue in 2023 as well.

In the last edition, Satwik and Chirag became the first Indian men's doubles pair to win a Worlds medal and they will look to better the colour of the bronze they won. Prannoy, meanwhile, will hope to add his name to the list of Indian men's singles medallists that has grown in the last few years.

The draw at the World Championships is increased to 64 players / teams and therefore has 16 seeds and an extra round added before the quarterfinals with most seeds starting with a bye. India has seeded entries in all categories except mixed doubles. Also at the Worlds, both semifinalist get a bronze medal

Here's a look at the draws and chances of Indian players at the 2023 BWF World Championships.

Men's singles

First things first - the three Indians are in different sections this time so there is no overlap and minimised chances we so see often.

HS Prannoy is the most consistent and in-form Indian in singles this year and is seeded 9th with Lakshya Sen a close second as 11th seed.

Prannoy has not won a World Championship medal yet, narrowly missing out last year. But if there is ever a time for his first, 2023 is the most opportune as the 31-year-old has put up his best string of results with even a first BWF World Tour title in May and a second final for the first time in a decade earlier this month at the Australian Open.

But for that to happen, he would have to cross the toughest hurdle in men's badminton - Viktor Axelsen, the No 1 and defending champion who will be playing at home. Prannoy has been known as a giant-slayer in the past and this might be the time he needs this skill the most.

Prannoy begins his campaign against Finland's Kalle Koljonen and is likely to face the tricky Chico Aura Dwi Wardoyo of Indonesia next, who he leads 2-1 and has beaten twice this year.

The third-round opponent could likely be 2021 world champion and seventh seed Loh Kean Yew, who Prannoy leads 3-1. If he wins and reaches the quarterfinals - the stage where he lost last year - he is most likely to play Axelsen who has a 7-2 record against him.

Lakshya, who won bronze in a breakthrough campaign at the end of 2021, comes in after a good streak of form before flu hit him in the tournament before this.

The 22-year-old opens against world No 110 Georges Julien Paul of Mauritius and is expected to meet Korea's Jeon Hyeok Jin next. His first big test will be third seed Kunlavut Vitidsarn, who was the runner-up last year, in the third round. Their head-to-head is a close 4-5 in the Thai's favour and both players are evenly matched with the Indian beating his last month en route the Canada Open title. If he beats the former junior world champion, he will face a familiar opponent is All England champion and sixth seed Li Shi Feng in the quarterfinal. The Indians leads him 5-3 and will hope to get into the podium with another win.

Kidambi Srikanth, the World Championship runner up in 2021, is not seeded but has an opportunity with the withdrawal of Indonesia's second seed Anthony Ginting due to the death of his mother.

The 30-year-old starts against a seeded player in Japan's Kenta Nishimoto but he has a 6-3 head-to-head record over 14th seed. A win will pit him against the winner of Julien Carraggi and Milan Dratva with a potential third round against Kanta Tsuneyama. All winnable matches which could mean a potential quarter-final fifth seed Jonatan Christie, 12th seed Anders Antonsen or even the unseeded Lee Zii Jia.

Women's singles

The draw for PV Sindhu - India's most successful player at the World Championships with five medals - is anything but easy, similar to how her season has been since her return from a five-month injury layoff in January.

Sindhu, now world No 15 and seeded 16th, has a bye in the first round and is likely to start off her campaign against Nozomi Okuhara (who starts against Vietnam's Thuy Linh Nguyen) - a very early battle of former world champions, both who have struggled to find their best after injury. Sindhu leads their head-to-head 9-8 but they haven't played since early 2020.

A win will likely pit Sindhu against Ratchanok Intanon, another former world champion, who leads the Indian 9-4 and has won their last five meetings. If Sindhu she makes it through these challenges, the biggest one likely awaits her in the quarterfinal - World No 1 and the season's red-hot favourite An Se Young who she is yet to beat in six meetings.

The path looks rough but for a player of Sindhu's calibre and pedigree, a solid performance in Copenhagen even without a medal could prove to be the catalyst she so badly needs.

Men's doubles

This is perhaps the strongest medal hope for India given the form of Satwik and Chirag - the second seeds. The two youngsters have proven themselves to be big-match players and will aim for a much bigger prize that last year's historic bronze. Coming off back-to-back titles at Indonesia Open Super 1000 and Korea Open, they are also one of the pairs that others will be circling in the draw as danger.

They have a bye in the first round and unseeded opponents in the second. The third round will likely see them against 10th seeds Leo Rolly Carnando and Daniel Marthin of Indonesia, who they've beaten in their only meeting so far. The quarterfinal is likely against seventh seeds Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi, who they lead 4-3.

The other top seeded pairs in their half are third seeds Liang Wei Keng and Wang Chang - the other in-form pair this season who the Indian beat for the first time in 3 meetings at last month's Korea Open as well as fifth seeds and 2021 world champions Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi - whom the Indians lead 4-1 and beat at last year's World Championships. They've proved this year that head-to-head ratios don't matter but they have avoided their usual tricky opponents this time.

There are no certainties in sport but the draw and form of Satwik and Chirag bode very well for Indian badminton's record books - which the duo regularly rewrite.

Women's doubles

Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand, who have also endured an erratic patch of form this season, have been seeded for the first time at 15th. However, their draw is as rough as their latest results with a potential third-round clash against China's top seeds and two-time defending champions Chen Qing Chen and Jia Yi Fan.

The other Indian pair is the draw are Ashwini Bhat and Shikha Gautam, who will be up against 11th seeded Indonesians Apriyani Rahayu and Siti Fadia Silva Ramadhanti in the second round.

Mixed doubles

India will have representation in the mixed doubles from Rohan Kapoor and N Sikki Reddy and Venkat Prasad and Juhi Dewangan. Both pairs are still relatively inexperienced on the Tour and will see this as an opportunity to compete at the highest level.

The Badminton World Championship will be shown live on Jio Cinema.