PV Sindhu hasn’t been in prime form since becoming the first Indian to bag the World Championship crown in August this year. She has managed to reach only one quarter-final in the six events thereafter and may not have got the opportunity to defend her BWF World Tour Finals title in Guangzhou this week had she not got a direct entry as the reigning world champion.

Only the top eight on the BWF Race to Guangzhou Rankings qualify for the World Tour Finals and Sindhu ended the year in the 15th spot.

National coach Pullela Gopichand had blamed the hectic schedule for the poor string of results in the last few months. But the 24-year-old has now got enough time to train and prepare for the year-end event and would be hoping to hit her strides from the first match itself.

Sindhu has always managed to raise the bar irrespective of her form in the run-up at the major tournament. And though she isn’t willing to predict her chances of defending her title in Guangzhou, she insists that she will be better prepared and should have different strategies for all the players she is likely to play.

“At this moment it is very difficult to predict. At least six of the eight are strong contenders, anyone can win it,” she was quoted as saying by The Times of India.

“I think everybody is in top form. Okuhara is playing well, she is very consistent. Apart from Okuhara we have Tai Tzu. Chen Yufei had also won back-to-back. Facing them, I cannot say it is very difficult or easy,” said the only Indian at the BWF Tour Finals this year.

The BWF World Tour Finals follow a group-cum-knockout format and Sindhu, who had reached the summit clash of the year-end tournament in 2017 and 2018, will need to finish among the top two in her group to make it to the semi-final.

Sindhu would open her campaign against former champion Akane Yamaguchi in group A on Wednesday. The other two players in her group are local hopes Chen Yufei and He Bingjiao. And making a winning start against Yamaguchi, an opponent she has a 10-6 head-to-head record would be important.

While Sindhu will look to shrug off her indifferent form in her opening match, her opponent Yamaguchi will also be looking for finally find her way in top-flight badminton after struggling with a hip injury that saw her exit quite a few tournaments in the early rounds in the second half of the year.

Among the Chinese opponents in the group, Sindhu has had a positive head-to-head record against Yufei but has struggled against Bingjiao in the recent past and how the Indian would tackle them in their own backyard would decide whether the 24-year-old can have a shot at completing a hat-trick of summit clashes in the tournament and retaining her crown.