Four-time runners up Deepika Kumari will bid for a maiden gold medal when the 'Archery World Cup Final' begins in Rome on Saturday. Seven top seeds from the four stages of World Cup plus one entry from the host nation make the cut for the two-day event to determine the season's best.
The opening day of the two-day meet at the Stadio dei Marmi here will be of a compound section where no Indian is in the fray while Deepika's first round (quarterfinal) match will be at 2.44pm on September 3.
Deepika faces a tough first round challenge in her Rio Olympics nemesis Ya-Ting Tan, a promising 23-year-old from Chinese Taipei who won a team bronze in 2016 and ousted the Indian in the individual pre-quarterfinal.
Tan is fresh from winning a double silver in the Summer Universiade at home last month and has won three gold and two silver in this year's World Cups to give her the third seed.
Deepika's last World Cup medal was a silver that came before the Rio Olympics in Antalya World Cup 2016 and she has been going through a lean patch.
The 23-year-old from Ranchi may not have any medal to boast this season but to her credit, she has the second-highest average arrow in matchplay of any of the eight Rome-bound recurve women and has loads of experience.
The Sixth seeded Indian will start as a darkhorse among the likes of Tan, Korean duo of Chang Hye Jin (top seed) and Ki Bo Bae, the reigning and former Olympic champions.
All three individual matches she lost in 2017 were high scoring affairs -- two quarterfinals and one in the fourth round -- and unless she's unlucky in Rome, her per-arrow form is enough to see her podium a fifth time.
Dola Banerjee is the only Indian to win the World Cup Final, a feat she had achieved in Dubai 2007 and she thinks Deepika has it in her to win the coveted gold.
"She has no medal to show this season but her scores have been promising," Dola told PTI.
A one-day event like the World Cup requires some element of luck.
"You will have just three matches. It all depends how you start. Anything can happen."
With World Championships (Mexico City, October) and Asian Championships (Dhaka, November) to be held later this year, the former world number one will be keen to bring her form back on track.
(With PTI Inputs)