WORLDS 2010 – Familiar Faces Missing; Others in Action

China’s Zheng Bo (pictured) is among the surprise inclusions in the entry lists for the 2010 Yonex BWF World Championships, set to kick off later this month in Paris.  Zheng […]

China’s Zheng Bo (pictured) is among the surprise inclusions in the entry lists for the 2010 Yonex BWF , set to kick off later this month in Paris.  Zheng is being given the chance to prove himself after being removed from the Chinese National team this spring while pairing changes have left other key badminton stars out of the running.

By Don Hearn, Badzine International.  Photos: BadmintonPhoto

Top badminton teams were hit by a rash of suspensions this year as no fewer than 4 top stars were disciplined and kept home from key tournaments recently.  Most prominent among them was China’s Zheng Bo, two-time All England champion and runner-up at the Worlds in 2007.  After being paired with young Ma Jin in late 2008, after Gao Ling’s retirement, Zheng quickly shot back to the top, going into last year’s Worlds on a 4-tournament winning streak.  After coming up short in Hyderabad, the pair made their only final in the past year at the China Open, where their impressive winning streak over Olympic champions Lee Yong Dae / Lee Hyo Jung finally ended.

Then in April came the surprise announcement that Head Coach Li Yongbo had suspended Zheng due to discipline and misconduct issues.  However, the suspension came shortly before the World Championship qualification deadline so Zheng/Ma – whose ranking has since plummeted from #1, early in the year,  to 34th – were still eligible to play in Paris.

After the Thomas Cup, of course, the entire Chinese team has been away from international exposure due to the China Badminton League but Zheng/Ma were put on the play-list by the Chinese coaching staff.  Li Yongbo recently told the Chinese media that he had no choice but to let Zheng play as not doing so would mean China would forfeit a spot in mixed doubles, a discipline in which the title has eluded China since 2001, despite their having appeared in 3 of the last 5 finals.  Li said that Zheng’s performance in Paris would determine whether he would be allowed to return to the national team.

In late May, suspensions hit Singapore’s Zhang Beiwen and Hendra Wijaya as well.  Zhang was suspended for 3 months without pay while Hendra was on half-pay and both were made to miss their home event, the Singapore Open.  While both shuttlers were kept on the list for the Worlds at first, Zhang was dropped from the most recent version and will not make the trip to Paris.  However, it looks as if Hendra will be re-united with brother Hendri Kurniawan Saputra (pictured) after the latter’s successful North American tour in a scratch partnership with Chayut Triyachart.

In fact, shortly after the Singapore announcement, Malaysia’s Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazari was disciplined for an incident during the Thomas Cup but by the qualification deadline, he and partner Mohd Zakry Abdul Latif had already slipped to #4 among Malaysian pairs.  In the semi-finals of last year’s Worlds, the Malaysians had been 2 points away from ousting the eventual repeat World Champions Fu/Cai.

Apart from Zhang’s exclusion from the Singapore contingent, singles MIAs will be limited to the obligatory absences of slightly-less-amazing Chinese shuttlers.  This year, China has elected to go with their top three in both the men’s and women’s singles events and once again, this leaves behind such incredible athletes as Chen Long, Du Pengyu, Jiang Yanjiao, and even defending champion Lu Lan (pictured)!  It is the cruel downside of being a talent-rich nation and Lu joins Xia Xuanze and Zhu Lin in the ranks of still-active World Champions from China whose chance to defend – in 2005 and 2009 respectively – has been denied by their compatriots’ superior performances.

Injuries are playing a surprisingly minor role in creating surprises among the entries.  Apart from the late removal of Joachim Persson (read more HERE) from the men’s singles list, other players known to have been struggling with injuries are still on the books just days before the draws.  Tine Baun (née Rasmussen) of Denmark is still there, despite having withdrawn from no fewer than four tournaments in the last 3 months.  That Korea’s Lee Yong Dae is back is no surprise as he has been in action in Macau and Taipei, but he is still set to play with Lee Hyo Jung in mixed doubles, even though the latter retired from two first-round matches in Macau last week.  Lee Hyun Il, who backed out of the Macau men’s singles final, came out of retirement only after the qualification cutoff date so, of course, he did not have the ranking to qualify him for Paris.

Women’s partnership changes to keep stars away

The basing of Worlds qualifications on April 29th rankings of course means that many newly peaking players and pairs will be passed over.  However, pairing changes are having at the biggest impact this year, especially on women’s doubles.  The Indonesian press reported last month that the nation would not be sending any women’s pairs to Paris as the two pairs that did qualify, Shendy Puspa Irawati / Meiliana Jauhari and Greysia Polii / Nitya Krishinda Maheswari, have since traded partners. Indonesia’s women’s doubles coach Aryono Miranat told the Jakarta Globe in July that the Worlds were being foregone to allow the players to focus on their new partnerships rather than playing just one more tournament in pairings that have already been done away with.

Korea, meanwhile, has seen some far more complicated pairing changes but in a way they have taken an opposite tack from Indonesia.  Neither Lee Kyung Won nor Lee Hyo Jung will be playing women’s doubles in Paris.  Instead, Ha Jung Eun and Kim Min Jung, who had been partnering the elder and younger Lee respectively and hence have played only two international matches together this year, will be back together.  Korea’s second pair will be Yoo Hyun Young / Jung Kyung Eun (pictured), who were withdrawn from the two recent North American events while each has played with different veteran partners since their Vietnam International victory in April.

While Asian Games preparations may be driving some of the entry decisions for the teams attending this year’s World Championships, for most of the top players who will not be making the trip, their places have been taken by other top-notch athletes and all indications still point to a full-fledged field in Paris later this month.  Seedings are to be based on BWF rankings from August 5th and the draw is scheduled for next Monday, August 9th.

Badzine and BadmintonPhoto are ready to bring you the best stories and photos when the World comes to Paris in a few weeks!

For more information on the 2010 Yonex BWF World Championships, visit the official homepage HERE

Don Hearn

About Don Hearn

Don Hearn is an Editor and Correspondent who hails from a badminton-loving town in rural Canada. He joined the Badzine team in 2006 to provide coverage of the Korean badminton scene and is committed to helping Badzine to promote badminton to the place it deserves as a global sport. Contact him at: don @