Home >mint-lounge >features >Saina Nehwal hopes to break the jinx

One of the two main medal contenders from India at the ongoing World Badminton Championship in Copenhagen, Denmark, has already made a shock exit.

Parupalli Kashyap, the world No.27 in men’s singles, crashed to a 3-game defeat against Germany’s Dieter Domke, world No.43. It was an unexpected loss for Kashyap, who won the Commonwealth Games gold just last month in Glasgow, Scotland, his biggest win yet. Kashyap also had a 5-1 head-to-head record against Domke in his favour, though that one defeat came the last time they met, this May at the Thomas Cup.

The manner of Kashyap’s loss followed what is now almost a pattern—he ceded the first game 26-24 after squandering a 14-10 lead and a lengthy battle of patience, won the second game 13-21, and despite taking four quick points in the third game to draw level with Domke, lost out to the German’s tenacity by 21-18.

Kashyap habitually takes early leads in his matches and pushes his opponents to the limit, whether it is the world No.1 Malaysian Lee Chong Wei, or lesser-ranked ones like Domke, but fails to scrape through.

Madhumita Bisht, a former national champion and one of the coaches of the Indian team, says Kashyap’s confidence levels don’t always match his skills.

“He needs to develop more self-belief, because he has all the skills to compete at this level and win big," Bisht said on the phone. “Ideally, against lower-ranked opponents like Domke, he should be looking to kill the game early, free his mind, take risks, and dominate."

Kashyap will now head to the Asian Games in Incheon, South Korea, which will be held from 20 September-4 October. It will be as tough as the world championships—the top Chinese players, as well as Wei, will be there too.

The other main contender, Saina Nehwal, will begin her campaign later in the day. She had a first-round bye, and should brush off her much lower-ranked second-round opponent. She is likely to meet the Japanese Takahashi Sayaka, world No.14, in the third round. If she makes it past Sayaka to the quarter-finals, Nehwal will have to fight the ghosts of the past: In four previous world championships, she has been beaten in the last eight stage. Her most likely opponent there will be Chinese world No.1 Li Xuerui, who leads their head-to-head count 7-2.

“If anyone can beat Xuerui, it’s Saina," says Bisht. “Her issue has always been injuries, but she looks well recovered right now."

Nehwal skipped the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow after a groin injury and blisters on her feet, and has had little success this year because of recurring health issues, which inevitably led to a drop in form.

“I am feeling much better now," Nehwal said over the phone before leaving for Copenhagen. “I needed time out to heal, and to prepare properly. I know how much pain I was going through. It has been a tough year, but the world championship is always a dream, and I am very focused on doing well."

Nehwal’s best result this year came in June, when she won the 2014 Australian Super Series, defeating world No.2 Wang Shixian en route.

“I will be keeping that win in my mind," Nehwal said. “It is a very tough year, with major competitions back to back. Right after this we will be heading for the Asian Games, so you have to do everything to keep your fitness and mental strength intact and just keep pushing."

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