Indian shuttlers were on a roll on the BWF tour at this point in time last year. With a couple of Superseries titles and strong showings in top-tier tournaments, the Asian giants were dominating the world stage.

Fast forward to July 2018, the scene is vastly different from last year. The big guns — PV Sindhu, Kidambi Srikanth, Saina Nehwal and HS Prannoy — have blown hot and cold, so far.

Expectations are low from the Indian unit at Nanjing World Championships due to the inconsistent performances. For the first time since 2013, India are heading into the world meet without any of its shuttlers winning a title on the tour.

The contrasting situation in 2017

On the contrary, Sindhu headed into the Glasgow championships with a tremendous burden of expectations for the first time in her career.

The 23-year-old had tasted success at world championships previously (bronze medals in 2013 and 2014) but the hype around the Hyderabad shuttler was at an all-time high due to her silver medal-winning performance at Rio Olympics previous year.

The lanky shuttler did not have a great record in the lead-up to last year's tournament as she had struggled in the Southeast Asian swing of the tour.

However, she went on to win the silver after finishing second best in a hard-fought, 110-minute epic final against Japan's Nozomi Okuhara. 

PV Sindhu
File photo of PV Sindhu.ANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images

Playing in front of a hall packed with a vocal crowd shouting "Sindhu...Sindhu" is an adrenaline-boosting experience. However, dampened expectations are a blessing in disguise when things aren't going your way.

Sindhu is expected to reach the final stages but not many are willing to put their money on the ace shuttler to win it.

However, it is hard to look beyond Sindhu's ability to step up on the big stage. If her performances in the Rio Olympics and the Glasgow championships are anything to go by, don't rule out the possibility of another classic Sindhu show in Nanjing.

The world number three, who had an ordinary start to the season, has also been quite impressive over the last few weeks.

Sindhu hasn't finished on the top step of the podium in 2018. However, she had reached the final in Indonesia and made the semi-final in Malaysia where she forced a decider against the unstoppable Tai Tzu Ying, who has lost only one match in the ongoing season.

Sindhu not the only inconsistent shuttler in 2018

As former national champion Aparna Popat points out, not many, barring the winning machine from Chinese Taipei, Tai, have been able to find consistent success on the tour this season.

"It's the first time this has happened, so all the players are pretty much trying to find their footing and trying to get their calendar organized right," Popat tells ESPN while talking about the new BWF rule that makes playing 12 tournaments in a calendar year compulsory for top shuttlers.

Who is Sindhu facing in Nanjing?

Nozomi Okuhara
The badminton machine who did not buckle in three back-to-back marathons encountersANDY BUCHANAN/AFP/Getty Images

Sindhu faces an early test against ninth-seed Sung Ji Hyun. Sindhu had lost to the South Korean in their most recent meeting (Badminton Asia Championships in April) but has a positive head-to-head record (7-5).

With Sung not having been in the best of forms in the ongoing season, Sindhu will certainly start as favourites if they meet in the third round.

Sindhu's draw has helped her avoid in-form Tai but she may meet Okuhara in a repeat of last year's final. Ever since the memorable title match in Glasgow, the two shuttlers, known for their never-say-die attitudes, have met four times and won twice each.

Okuhara captured the Thailand Open title earlier this month, beating Sindhu in straight games, but expect nothing less than a three-game battle in their possible quarter-final meeting.

It is time to address the elephant in the room. Sindhu has failed in the final hurdle of her last three major tournaments and was even labelled 'choker' for not being able to win a gold medal yet.

It has reached a stage where it's become much more of a mental barrier for the champion shuttler. Nonetheless, if she manages to survive till Sunday, expect her to come out all guns blazing in search of the elusive yellow metal.

With a lot of importance attached to Asian Games performance in the country, Sindhu will be hoping to hit top form over the next few days. A good run in Nanjing will serve as a big boost to her chances of reigning supreme in Jakarta.